After Politico decided to publish the allegedly leaked decision in Dobbs last night, unrest immediately began to grow in the streets of Washington, specifically outside of the Supreme Court building itself. If you somehow missed the news, Ed Morrissey wrote a thorough and thoughtful analysis of it for us, covering both the legislative and journalistic ramifications, so go back and read that first. The social fallout will likely be substantial as well, and that’s something I wanted to look at this morning. Even if that decision turns out to be the final one (which is not definite at this point), the response from the public from both the pro-life and pro-abortion sides of the divide will be with us for quite some time to come. Groups supporting both positions no doubt sent out “action alerts” on social media as soon as the news broke, and people began assembling in front of the Supreme Court building quickly. Before long, the volume started increasing and the situation threatened to break into fisticuffs. (NY Post)
Pro-choice and anti-abortion protesters descended on the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. late Monday as tensions mounted following the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision…
Minutes after the bombshell document was leaked, barricades were erected outside of the Supreme Court building in anticipation of protests, according to reports.
Within the hour, a growing crowd of abortion rights activists and a smaller group of counter-protesters clashed outside of the fences at the impromptu gathering.
Video of the interactions between the conflicting sides quickly began showing up on social media. Here’s just one example.
Things are growing increasingly tense outside of the Supreme Court tonight. pic.twitter.com/od6OZkkz4o
— Zachary Petrizzo (@ZTPetrizzo) May 3, 2022
Assuming the leaked decision winds up being the final one, which remains uncertain this morning, it’s worth keeping in mind that no result from the Supreme Court in this case will create any sort of federal law banning abortion across the country. The states will return to making such decisions as each sees best, expressed through the legislative actions of the people’s elected representatives. We’ve had previews of what that will look like as many states preemptively enacted new laws and policies in anticipation of this ruling. Some red states will move to enact severe restrictions on the procedure. Blue states, including California, have already vowed to make abortions as accessible as possible, going so far as to offer subsidized travel for women (oh, excuse me… birthing people) to travel to their state to obtain an abortion.
Supporters of the minority viewpoint in each state will no doubt continue to protest. This issue is surely among the most divisive in American culture and that won’t go away any time soon. But looking at the long-term ramifications, it’s not hard to see this as yet another keystone issue that will further encourage migration inside of the United States along ideological lines. Picking up and leaving your home is a major decision involving potential separation from family members and significant financial expenditures. But people have already been doing it over other divisive political matters such as tax rates, labor laws, or public school policies.
Abortion laws will almost certainly produce a similar effect. People will slowly migrate to states with laws that most closely match their beliefs and desires. Red states will become redder and blue states will become bluer. Primarily coastal blue states may begin regaining some of their recent population losses, potentially strengthening their position in the House of Representatives. Smaller, but more numerous red states could readily lock down their control of a majority in the Senate.
If enough of this sort of migration takes place, there may not be a need for a new civil war. The country could simply split up like two squabbling roommates who endure long periods of uncomfortable silence after realizing they have nothing left in common to talk about. But would we be better or worse off as a result? That’s just something to ponder while we await the final decision.
As to the future of both the court case and journalism, I’ll just add a couple of notes to what Ed already wrote. First of all, I agree that this leak was almost certainly an act of deliberate sabotage, designed to inflame public emotions and promote pressure on the court. Alito allegedly made reference to this in the decision, saying that action must be taken without concern for any public outcry or unrest. But that outcry and unrest is going to continue. To shorten the fuse, Andy McCarthy opined that the court should just break with precedent and release their decision immediately, assuming it actually has been finalized.
If this story is true, the Court should issue its opinion right away. Otherwise the disgraceful leak wins. I would say that if my side lost. If we lose the integrity of the Court’s process, we lose the Court. That should be intolerable to all of us who live the country.
— Andy McCarthy (@AndrewCMcCarthy) May 3, 2022
On the journalistic side, the outlet that made the editorial decision to run with the story still has a lot to answer for. If this turns out to be fake (which I highly doubt, personally, though the final draft may have some edits), it should be the end of Politico. Rolling that sort of grenade under the public door without being 100% positive of its accuracy would be a case of journalistic malpractice that should see an outlet hounded from the public square.
But even if it’s real, there needs to be some soul-searching at Politico over the decision to release this document. Over the history of the profession, there have been plenty of times when publishers have gotten hold of a juicy scoop but delayed releasing it for a variety of reasons. In this incident, protecting the long-term health and viability of the Supreme Court probably should have been an important factor in their deliberations. What greater public good was advanced by dumping an as-yet unofficial draft of such a momentous court decision out into the public square? Sometimes the desire to be “first” in the admittedly vicious competitive world of online news publication should still be outweighed by consideration of the potential consequences of the publisher’s actions.