When the draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked early this month, many people were shocked at the thought that the United States appears poised to erase decades of hard-earned progress. The other broader focus was on how such a monumental leak could have occurred. There is a third aspect of this story, however, that also deserves the public’s undivided attention.
As any Supreme Court Justice knows, controversial opinions are more credible (and arguments appear more reasonable) when a clear line can be drawn from a certain set of facts to a conclusion. Although this is what Justice Samuel Alito was trying to accomplish, people mustn’t be fooled. Alito’s writing is littered with brazen inaccuracies and gross misrepresentation of the facts underlying the abortion debate.
In a piece aimed at exposing Alito’s falsehoods, the New York Times wrote that his leaked opinion cites common anti-abortion claims but “presents those assertions as indisputable facts while omitting context and counterarguments.” Rather than qualify certain references as mere arguments, Alito spent much ink presenting disputed claims about fetal development, abortion procedures, and international laws as if they were facts.
At one point, Alito wrote that the Mississippi Legislature “found that at five or six weeks’ gestational age an ‘unborn human being’s heart begins beating.’” In reality, when a heart begins to beat is far from established. By six weeks, a valve-less hollow tube (that will later develop into a heart) emits electrical pulses, and a beating sound can be heard if a machine translates those pulses into audio.
In another example, Alito refers to dilation and evacuation as “dangerous for the maternal patient.” However, as the Times points out, this common second-trimester procedure “is generally considered the safest for most women in that stage of pregnancy” and such bold portrayals are considered both inflammatory and medically inaccurate.
We’ve seen these same language tricks before with abortion. When Texas’ anti-abortion law took effect in September, President Joe Biden rightfully called it an “unprecedented assault on constitutional rights.” However, as medical experts reviewed the law’s text, it became clear the law was also the product of legislators who similarly twisted facts to fulfill their misogynistic fantasies.
This is what we’re up against in the ongoing fight for women’s rights, dignity, and the ability to make personal, important decisions about one’s own body. Months have passed since the Texas law’s enactment in September, and Alito’s recently leaked draft opinion now portends a bleak future. Congress must codify Roe v. Wade as soon as possible.