On May 2, Politico hit America with a bombshell scoop: A leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning the last 50 years of federal jurisprudence on abortion, discarding Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and returning the matter to the states.
Predictable responses ensued: Outrage from pro-choice activists who want Roe left intact, and outrage from Republican commentators that the opinion, which would likely have been released some time in the next two months, was preemptively leaked to the media.
While I naturally have my own opinions on Roe/Casey, and on the current case (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization), I’m not going to share them here.
And while I get the outrage from the right concerning the leak, it’s not the leak per se that bothers me. It’s the timing.
The leaked draft is labeled “Circulated: February 10, 2022.”
Assuming the document is real (which I have no particular reason to doubt), and that it follows rather than anticipates an actual vote of the Supreme Court’s member justices on the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was decided three months ago — and we may have to wait up to two more months before the court gets around to telling us about it.
Most Americans who care about this case seem to agree that a lot turns on the Court’s decision.
Every day that passes without an officially released ruling means more abortions are performed in Mississippi. The position of the state of Mississippi — agree with it or not — is that those abortions violate the right to life of the aborted fetuses, which is why it passed the ban that led to the case.
In the meantime, Mississippi’s abortion providers (whose position — agree with it or not — is that abortion is a human right which the Mississippi ban violates) are forced to operate in an environment of continuing uncertainty.
And since it’s a Supreme Court decision, every state government and every abortion provider in America has a similar stake in the outcome.
Why are we still waiting on the Court to publicly announce a decision it made months ago?
The Constitution assigns appellate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court “under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”
Here’s a suggestion: Congress should require the Court to publicly announce its decisions within one business day of voting.
Justificatory opinions can come later, but the Court owes litigants — and the country — promptness in resolution of disputes.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.