Washington D.C., May 14, 2022 / 05:25 am (CNA).
The Supreme Court's scheduled release of one or more opinions on Monday is fueling speculation that it may issue a decision then in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.
May 16 marks the first "opinion issuance day" since the leak of a draft opinion in the case that suggests justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.
When the court announced that Monday would be a decision day, "I think everybody's ears kind of perked up," Katie Glenn, government affairs counsel for the pro-life group Americans United for Life, told CNA.
While the court traditionally waits to issue decisions in bigger, more controversial cases like Dobbs until the end of the court's term in late June or early July, the leak of the draft opinion, written by Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., threw into question that expectation.
In the wake of the bombshell leak, first published by Politico on May 2, several pro-life leaders and organizations have said they believe the court ought to come out with the decision quickly.
"The unprecedented leak is an attempt by the Left to corrupt the Court's deliberation process and bully the justices into changing their majority opinion," Carrie Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, told CNA. "For the sake of the Court's own integrity, it would be appropriate to release the opinion as soon as possible."
In response to the leak, abortion activists protested outside of justices' private homes and attacked Catholic churches and pro-life pregnancy centers. At the same time, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. stressed that the "work of the Court will not be affected in any way" by the leaked draft, which the Supreme Court confirmed is authentic.
Roberts and the eight other justices met in private for the first time since the leak on Thursday, May 12, the Associated Press reported. Justices could decide Dobbs on Monday, legal experts say, or they could decide any of the 37 other cases that have yet to be ruled on before the court breaks for summer recess.
Glenn of Americans United for Life outlined several possible outcomes. Justices might want to get the decision out of the way now, as people protest outside their homes, and attempt to diffuse the situation. She could also see justices waiting until June to show that the pressure and tactics directed at them do not influence the court's behavior.
Justices could also still be working on the main opinion or concurrences and dissents.
"It could be just a timing issue," Glenn suggested. "They can't release it on Monday because it's not finished."
Monday is the earliest scheduled date for the justices to issue a decision in Dobbs. The latest date they could release it is more uncertain.
While the last Thursday of June usually marks the end of the Supreme Court's term, Glenn said that, "depending on how all of this changes their schedule or if there are a lot of concurrences and dissenting opinions — more than normal — they very easily could go into July."
Lauren Muzyka, an attorney who serves as the president and CEO of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, outlined two possible outcomes regarding the timing of the decision.
She told CNA that the leak, "rather than forcing the Justices to move more quickly than they'd originally intended, might actually convince them to stick to their ground and maintain their original schedule, simply out of principle."
"Still, knowing that Justice Alito and his family have been taken to a secure location for protection right now and other Justices have been given increased security as well," she added, "I also wouldn't be surprised if Chief Justice Roberts made a decision to push it out Monday."
Muzyka said that, regardless, the pro-life movement's mission remains the same: empowering women to choose life.
"Even with the furor out there at the moment — pregnancy centers and churches being vandalized plus violent commentary on social media and television — that's not going to stop the pro-life movement from reaching mothers in crisis with the news that they have options, resources, and they deserve better than abortion," Muzyka concluded. "And I don't think it's necessarily going to move the Supreme Court to change direction, either."