A potential supreme court ruling overturning the 50-year-old precedent that legalised abortion in the US could undermine other rights for Americans including same-sex marriage and birth control, president Joe Biden has said.
The constitutional right to abortion in the US has been thrown into serious doubt after a leaked draft opinion drawn up in the supreme court maintained that it had voted to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling in adjudicating on a case which challenged restrictions on terminations in Mississippi.
Mr Biden said the draft, if it was adopted by the court as a final ruling, would represent “a fundamental shift in American jurisprudence”. He said the rationale used by the supreme court justice who wrote the draft, if upheld, “would mean that every other decision relating to the notion of privacy is thrown into question”.
“If the rationale of the decision as released were to be sustained, a whole range of rights are in question – a whole range of rights,” he said. “It goes to other basic rights: the right to marry, the right to determine a whole range of things.”
Right to privacy
Mr Biden said a number of the members of the current US supreme court had not acknowledged that there was a right to privacy in the constitution.
Legal experts maintained that some rights not specifically outlined in the constitution were deemed to flow from a right to privacy.
“Does this mean that in Florida they can decide they’re going to pass a law saying that same-sex marriage is not permissible, that it is against the law in Florida?” Mr Biden asked.
Several hundred people demonstrated outside the supreme court on Tuesday in support of Roe v Wade. A smaller number of anti-abortion activists were also present .
The president said he believed “a woman’s right to choose is fundamental” and that Roe v Wade should not be overturned. He urged the public to elect more pro-choice politicians to the US congress and for them to legislate for abortion rights.
In the draft supreme court opinion – obtained by the news organisation Politico – conservative justice Samuel Alito wrote: "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start."
The Politico report based on the draft opinion said that five justices had decided to uphold a Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and overturn the Roe v Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion in 1973.
US chief justice John Roberts on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of the draft, written in February, and said an investigation into the leak had been ordered. He suggested that the court's decision was not yet final.