ATLANTA — As news of the Supreme Court's pending decision to overturn Roe v. Wade spread across the country, lawmakers from across the South have been swift to voice their plans — either to restrict or protect abortion rights.
If the leaked draft opinion is adopted by the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade — a 1973 SCOTUS decision that protected a women's choice to have an abortion — would be overturned.
Lawmakers would be left to decide the fate of abortion in their states and more than two dozen states are expected to either further restrict or outright ban abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said if the ruling is made, harm and chaos will ensue.
"We've seen it play out already in Texas and other states where abortion access has already been subjected to harsh restrictions. People will have to flee their states to seek abortion — if they can afford to. Those without resources or support will be forced to remain pregnant or seek abortion outside of the health care system."
The burden of abortion restrictions will fall hardest on Black, Latino, Indigenous, and other people of color, who are disproportionately affected by abortion bans and restrictions, she said.
"As a woman, I am enraged by the continued assault on our right to control our bodies (and) our futures. As an American, I am appalled by the SCOTUS breach and its implications. As the next governor of Georgia, I will defend the right to an abortion and fight for reproductive justice,” Stacey Abrams, Democrat candidate for governor of Georgia, said.
Georgia's U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both Democrats, said they will push for federal protections for abortion.
“If the Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, the lives, health, privacy and liberty of women nationwide will be relentlessly attacked by extreme laws that threaten women and their health care providers with imprisonment when a woman makes the deeply personal medical choice to terminate a pregnancy — even early in the first trimester," Ossoff stated. "An overwhelming majority of Americans believe women should be free to make their own medical decisions about reproductive health in private consultation with their doctors and support the standards established in Roe v. Wade."
Warnock tweeted his support of the “urgent” need to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, a federal proposal to protect a woman’s decision on whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.
“These are decisions that should be made between a woman and her doctor — not the government,” Warnock stated.
Republican members of Congress have backed the proposed "Life at Conception Act," which aims to implement equal protection for unborn children beginning at conception.
That bill is sponsored by 19 Republican senators including Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and both Tennessee Sens. Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn.
“We must defend the integrity of the Court from the left’s radical attack,” Blackburn stated Tuesday.
Several state lawmakers in Tennessee have already proposed to end abortion in the state.
A proposal in the Tennessee legislature sought to ban abortion but the proposal stalled in committee as the state awaits a federal court decision in its 2020 attempt to ban abortions past six weeks of pregnancy. As it stands now, abortions are allowed up to 20 weeks.
Tennessee is also one of 13 states that have post-Roe laws to ban all or nearly all abortions that would be triggered if Roe is overturned, according to the The Guttmacher Institute.
The trigger law added to the code in 2019 would criminalize a person who performs or attempts to perform an abortion with a Class C felony. The woman receiving the abortion would not be criminalized under that law, which would take effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issues a judgment overturning Roe v. Wade.
“I am concerned by the leak and any attempt to thwart justice," said Gov. Bill Lee, who also made note of the aforementioned state laws. "If the federal courts return full authority to the states, Tennessee’s laws will automatically provide the maximum possible protection and offer a glimmer of redemption as America reconciles our troubled past. We are talking about families in crisis – not isolated clinical procedures – and our state will continue to provide protection, resources and care for both mother and child.”
Abortion would also be banned in Alabama following Gov. Kay Ivey's signature on a total abortion ban in 2019. That decision was delayed from taking effect by a federal judge.
"Alabama stands to take immediate action if the Supreme Court ultimately overturns Roe and allows states to once again determine abortion-related matters," Alabama Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter said. "Our state motto reads 'We dare defend our rights,' and that includes the rights of an unborn."
Alabama native and musician Jason Isbell said he supports a woman's right to choose and encouraged donations to the Yellowhammer Fund, a nonprofit abortion fund and reproductive justice organization serving Alabama, Mississippi and the Deep South.
A 2021 poll by Pew Research showed that 59% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 39% think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
Mississippi is the center of the Supreme Court's pending ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson's Women Health Organization, where an abortion clinic is seeking to overturn the state's new law banning abortions past 15 weeks. The state countered, asking the Court to uphold its law and overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Everyone is outraged over the alleged leak in the (Mississippi) abortion case. … For decades, America has been uniquely radical in the West. Our abortion laws look like China and North Korea. Please pray for wisdom and courage for SCOTUS. Countless lives can be saved,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves stated.
A trigger law is also on the books in Mississippi, banning all abortions, except when necessary to save the mother's life or in the case of rape. Anyone who aids in an abortion outside the aforementioned circumstances would be punished with at least one year in jail.
Abortion ban opponents in Mississippi have argued against abortion restrictions pointing to the state's high maternal mortality and poverty rate.
Back in Georgia, Congressman Jody Hice, a Republican candidate for Georgia Secretary of State, commented in support of overturning Roe v. Wade.
“Life is a God-given right” he said. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I planned every day of your life.”
But Georgia Democrats urged voters to elect Democrats at state and local levels who will “safeguard abortion access” as it appears Republicans across social media following the leak are in support of the impending ruling against Roe v. Wade.
“Poll after poll and year after year, voters are clear: they overwhelmingly support reproductive freedom and Roe v. Wade. I am proudly part of the the pro-choice majority in this country who will always fight to protect abortion rights,” state Sen. Sonya Halpern said.