Linda Coffee, a lawyer who represented Jane Roe in the landmark Roe v. Wade case, warned it would be a “giant step backward in American history” if the Supreme Court decided to remove a constitutional right to privacy, including as it relates to a person’s right to seek an abortion.
“My co-counsel Sarah Weddington and I forged for American women the right to privacy, not just in abortion law, but in all parts of one’s personal life,” Coffee wrote in The New Republic on Wednesday.
Unless the court decides to strike down harsh state laws restricting abortion, Coffee noted, the federal standard established with Roe will likely no longer hold.
“As a result, after half a century of the freedom to exercise their constitutional right to privacy, women who desire an abortion will need to travel to abortion-friendly states, trips that will cost time, money, and emotional turmoil—trips that some will not be able to make,” Coffee wrote.
People from marginalized groups who have limited access to health care will be most affected if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, according to data reviewed by The Associated Press.
“But perhaps most important, the loss of the right to privacy and the ability of American women to make their own decisions about pregnancy signifies a loss of dignity. It is a giant step backward in American history,” Coffee wrote.
Oklahoma became the latest red state to limit abortion this week. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the “Oklahoma Heartbeat Act,” which bans abortion at around six weeks or after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The Supreme Court has not officially announced its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is based on a Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks. But a leaked draft of the majority opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito shows the court is poised to strike down both Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a later ruling on abortion rights.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote in the draft, which Politico published Monday. “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. … It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that such a ruling would have far-reaching consequences.
“This is about a lot more than abortion,” Biden said. “The idea that somehow there is no right of privacy ... What happens if you have a state that changes the law, saying that children who are LGBTQ can’t be in classrooms with other children?”
Coffee echoed Biden’s worries about what constitutional rights could be attacked next.
“What other freedoms will Americans see retracted if the right to privacy ends in America?” Coffee wrote. “We must think fast and deeply about what it means to undermine this and any right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution—before it’s too late.”