A leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion suggests the court is prepared to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that guarantees abortion access. has sent shockwaves through both political parties. In Craven County, reaction to the leaked draft, which if upheld would leave the matter to individual states, has been decidedly mixed, with state legislators, party representatives, and local residents offering both praise and scathing criticism of the court’s arguments.
Diane Tyndall, chair of the Democratic Women of Craven County, described news of the draft decision as “shocking.”
“It was a sad night when we got this news because we understood that Roe was the law of the land and had been for the last 49 years,” Tyndall said. “This was not surprising given the makeup of the court, but I think it’s a shock to a lot of people. It affects families, it affects women who have been victims of crimes who are now going to be forced to bear children who they had no intention of having.”
North Carolina currently has several laws in place restricting abortion. Any provider or hospital with opposition to abortion can opt out of the procedure through "conscience protections." State employee health insurance and health insurance plans offered through the Affordable Care Act marketplace in North Carolina are also prohibited from covering most abortions.
But unlike 13 other U.S. states, North Carolina has no so-called “trigger law” that could be enacted to limit access to abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Tyndall said she is concerned, however, that even without a trigger law if Roe v Wade is overturned, the Republican-led state Legislature would take immediate steps to restrict abortion access.
“I do believe there are people in the Legislature who would fall in line with what some other states have done,” she said.
Tyndall said she believes the outcome of the mid-term elections plays an important role in how the abortion issue is decided locally.
“As a member of the Democratic party, I have been at the polls and there are not many people voting right now in the primaries,” she said. “I think there is a possibility based on the outcome of the election that North Carolina could shift its opinion. I hope people will get out and vote to make sure that does not happen because that’s going to make the difference.”
Tyndall said that, while she believed there were people of good faith on both sides of the issue, ultimately she believes abortion should remain a personal choice.
“There’s nobody in this country who says ‘I think I’ll get pregnant so I can have an abortion.’ It’s such a difficult decision and it’s such an individual decision for people,” she said. “People agonize over this decision, and for the courts to overrule what was the law of the land seems somewhat capricious. I hope people will think about that when they go to the polls.”
U.S. Congressman Greg Murphy, a Republican who represents New Bern and Kinston in N.C.’s 3rd District, has taken a very different view of the abortion issue. In a May 3 news release, Murphy condemned that the draft opinion was leaked and stated his support for returning the abortion issue to the states.
“Yesterday’s unprecedented leak undermines the integrity of the judicial process and it must be thoroughly investigated,” Murphy said. “If the draft opinion holds, the legality of abortion will rightfully return to the states where the American people will have the power to decide through their elected officials.”
Reached for comment Wednesday, N.C. District 3 House member Steve Tyson, who represents Craven County, said he had not read the draft opinion.
“I don’t even know if it’s verified if it’s true so I don’t want to speculate on something that may not be the real deal. We’ll just have to see what the Supreme Court does,” Tyson said.
In a May 3 press release, the U.S. Supreme Court verified that the draft opinion was authentic, writing, "Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case."
The Sun Journal also reached out to Craven County Sen. Norman Sanderson and House member Keith Kidwell for comment but had not received responses by deadline.
On May 3, Kidwell posted a link to a Fox News story on the leaked Supreme Court opinion on his Facebook page with the comment “Praise God!” posted above it.
In a random sampling of visitors to Union Point Park on Wednesday morning, residents were largely opposed to the court striking down Roe v. Wade.
Christina Hutcherson and her husband, Matt, said they believed the Supreme Court was leaving the door open to ban abortion at the federal level.
“If you read the opinion, there’s very little said about returning it to the states. It’s almost like this wink-wink way of saying ‘Yeah, if you want to make this a federal ban, go ahead,'” Christina said.
Trisha McMillan offered a short, blunt opinion of the possibility of returning abortion questions to the states.
“That’s wrong, plain wrong,” she said. “Anybody with any sense knows you can’t leave something that important to these states. Look how crazy some of these politicians are.”
Carl Ableton, who described himself as a Marine Corps veteran, said he was conflicted on how the Supreme Court should handle the issue.
“That’s hard, man,” he admitted. “You’ve got to have exemptions for somebody that’s been raped or a woman who might have a bad pregnancy, something like that. I know people who have gone through that. I don’t think you can just outlaw it away, that’s not right.”
This article originally appeared on Sun Journal: Craven County reacts to 'shocking' Supreme Court abortion opinion