Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama said a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would strike down abortion rights has people across the country afraid of losing a number of other freedoms.
The former first couple released a statement Tuesday talking about the consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade, a 1973 case in which the ruling legalized abortions nationwide.
"Today, millions of Americans woke up fearing that their essential freedoms under the Constitution were at risk," the Obamas said about the draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, published by Politico.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito said in the opinion, which was circulated within the court in February. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives," he added.
Under the opinion's logic, the Obamas said, "state legislatures could dictate that women carry every pregnancy to term, no matter how early it is and no matter what circumstances led to it — even rape or incest."
"If the Supreme Court ultimately decides to overturn the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, then it will not only reverse nearly 50 years of precedent — it will relegate the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues," the couple said.
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"But what Roe recognized is that the freedom enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution requires all of us to enjoy a sphere of our lives that isn't subjected to meddling from the state," the Obamas said. "A sphere that includes personal decisions involving who we sleep with, who we marry, whether or not to use contraception, and whether or not to bear children."
The Obamas said most women who decide to have an abortion don't make the decision "casually," and they note that "people of goodwill, across the political spectrum" are able to have different opinions and views on abortion.
Here’s my statement with Michelle on the draft Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. pic.twitter.com/xBJJkLYGlQ— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 3, 2022
The Obamas highlighted how the consequences of the decision, which isn't final, would affect not only women but everyone who believes "that in a free society, there are limits to how much the government can encroach on" people's personal lives.
"This decision is unlikely to significantly reduce abortions, which have been steadily going down over the past several decades thanks in large part to better access to contraception and education," they said. "Instead, as we’ve already begun to see in states with restrictive abortion laws, those women with means would travel to states where abortion remains legal and safe. Meanwhile, those without enough money or access to transportation or ability to take off from school or work would face the same circumstances most women faced before Roe, desperately seeking out illegal abortions that inevitably pose grave risks to their health, their future ability to bear children, and sometimes their lives."
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The Obamas pleaded with the Supreme Court to "think about" the people who find themselves in difficult situations, ranging from a college student having unprotected sex to couples that have unsuccessfully tried to get pregnant for years only to be faced with an "unviable pregnancy." They also cite polling that shows a majority of people support upholding Roe.
"Think of any of the hundreds of thousands of women each year who deserve the dignity and freedom of making a decision that is right for their bodies and their circumstances," the Obamas added. "You might be one of those people. Or you might know some of them by name. If you don’t, ask yourself if you know everyone’s whole story."
"But we’re not asking you to just think about these people. We’re asking you to join with the activists who’ve been sounding the alarm on this issue for years — and act," they continued. "Stand with them at a local protest. Volunteer with them on a campaign. Join with them in urging Congress to codify Roe into law. And vote alongside them on or before November 8 and in every other election. Because in the end, if we want judges who will protect all, and not just some, of our rights, then we’ve got to elect officials committed to doing the same."