Fence erected around SCOTUS amid massive protests spurred by leaked opinion

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


Workers erected a large fence around the U.S. Supreme Court building late Wednesday night, as protests around the country brought concerns that riots could erupt outside the high court.

The security measure came two days after a draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked, indicating concern for the safety of the justices. Justice Samuel Alito, who penned the draft, canceled a scheduled public appearance Wednesday as a crowd of screaming, sign-wielding protesters swelled outside the court building. Alito also canceled his plans to participate in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judicial conference scheduled to begin today. The justice is responsible for reviewing the court’s emergency appeals. 

A video of D.C. pro-abortion protesters chanted “Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate,” in a video posted to Twitter late Wednesday afternoon. A few top Democratic lawmakers addressed the crowds, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who became hoarse from shouting. Verbal clashes erupted between the protesters and a smaller group of pro-life advocates who showed up in support of the draft opinion. Capitol Police had to separate the two groups with police barricades, according to The Washington Post.

In New York City, upwards of 1,000 protesters congregated at Foley Square. A video posted to Twitter shows demonstrators chanting pro-abortion slogans while holding up cardboard signs reading “abortion on demand & without apology” and “my body my choice.” 

So far, the identity of the person who leaked the draft opinion to Politico on Monday remains unknown. Only the justices themselves have access to the opinions, leading to speculation that the leak possibly came from as high up as the high court’s bench or was perpetrated by a clerk with access to the document. Conservative lawmakers and pundits say the leak was calculated to pressure the nation’s highest court to uphold the Roe precedent.

Chief Justice John Roberts condemned the leak in a Tuesday statement. “This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here,” he said. Roberts asked the marshal of the Supreme Court to “launch an investigation into the source of the leak.”

Democrats furious that the SCOTUS is poised to toss out the 1973 ruling legalizing abortion in the U.S. have renewed calls to pack the court. Several top Democratic lawmakers are calling on Congress to pass a measure that would codify Roe v. Wade, though a similar effort at the end of February failed, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joining Republicans in opposing the bill.

Meanwhile, Democratic governors and attorneys general have vowed to uphold abortion rights at the state level. Several states with Democratic legislatures have already passed legislation to codify abortion rights in anticipation of the Roe reversal. Colorado’s Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a measure declaring abortion to be a “fundamental right” and denying any rights to the unborn. Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) in 2019 signed a law codifying abortion rights and explicitly removing all protections from preborn babies. States like New Jersey and California, among others, have legislated expanded abortion access. 

Meanwhile, GOP-led states like Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma have passed laws restricting abortion. Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., pledged to call a special session of her state’s legislature “immediately” if Roe gets struck down, to defend the lives of unborn infants.

Abortion rights, already a hot-button issue, are now likely to take a front seat in the November midterms. Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups have already earmarked $150 million for ads leading up to the election.