Supporters of legal abortion rights gathered at the Supreme Court building on Monday night, carrying signs and raising their voices in chants after a draft of a majority Supreme Court opinion circulated that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
The scene outside the court ranged from somber to angry, with people consoling one another and questioning what to do next. Some who had gathered appeared to be in disbelief.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho, Samuel Alito’s gotta go,” the crowd chanted for a time.
According to the draft opinion written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito and obtained by Politico, the court would overturn Roe v. Wade’s holding of a federal constitutional right to abortion. The opinion would be the most consequential abortion decision in decades and would transform the landscape of women’s reproductive health in America.
“For 49 years, we have fought to make sure that we are able to make these decisions, not some lawmakers down the street, not somebody who honestly doesn’t even know how our bodies work. And now they are determined to take this right away from us,” Alexis McGill, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360” Monday evening.
Planned Parenthood, she vowed, will work on “ensuring that people understand what is at stake right now. It is literally their bodies on the line.”
Sarah Lanford, a health care policy advocate from Texas, told CNN outside the court that she felt there was “nothing” that she could do. “I feel like I’m doing everything I can do in terms of organizing, registering voters, donating to abortion funds, and it’s just like not enough in a way that’s really frustrating,” she said.
Another in the crowd, Nick Butler, said people need to recognize “that they have power” to enact change as he urged everyone to consider those “who are going to be targeted” if Roe is struck down.
The draft was circulated in early February, according to Politico. The final opinion has not been released, and votes and language can change before opinions are formally released. The opinion in the case – Dobbs v. Jackson, which concerns a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortion – is not expected to be published until late June.
Politico says it has authenticated the draft, but CNN has not independently confirmed the document’s authenticity. A Supreme Court spokesperson declined to comment to CNN.
Tension outside the court
At one point in the night, supporters of eliminating Roe v. Wade traded dueling chants outside the court even though abortion rights supporters far outnumbered others gathered.
One anti-abortion activist was met with loud chants of “stand up, fight back” as he sought to disrupt the crowd of abortion rights proponents.
“Not the church, not the state, women decide our fate,” the crowd chanted late Monday evening.
The tense scenes underscored the galvanizing nature of the abortion debate in Washington and statehouses across the country. Overturning Roe would be the culmination of a decades-long project of the conservative legal moment.
Celebrated by supporters of abortion rights and long reviled by critics, Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 – establishing a constitutional right to abortion before fetal viability, which most experts say occurs at around 23-24 weeks of pregnancy.
The decision was reaffirmed in 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. A majority of the court in that case replaced Roe’s framework with a new standard to determine the validity of laws restricting abortions. The court said that a regulation cannot place an “undue burden” on the right to abortion, which is defined as a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”
According to a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS in January, most Americans oppose overturning Roe, with a majority saying that if the decision were vacated they’d want to see their own states move toward more permissive abortion laws.
But within the GOP, support for overturning Roe remains strong, and a number of Republican lawmakers celebrated the draft opinion Monday evening.
GOP Rep. Billy Long of Missouri, who is running for the Senate, said in a statement that he is “optimistic that these reports are true, and that the Supreme Court will do the right thing, finally overturning this travesty of a decision.”
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, meanwhile, tweeted, “If this report is true, this is nothing short of a massive victory for life and will save the lives of millions of innocent babies.”
Still, Roe is the law of the land until the court formally issues an opinion.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho, abortion bans have got to go,” the crowd chanted outside the court early Tuesday morning.
This story has been updated with additional information Tuesday.
CNN’s Tierney Sneed, Ariane de Vogue and Joan Biskupic contributed to this report.