Roe v. Wade live updates: Some U.S. companies assure their workers they’ll help them access abortions

Published May 4, 2022 at 8:27 AM EDT
People print signs reading "my body, my choice" next to small American flags on the pavement.
Brendan Smialowski
/
AFP via Getty Images
Demonstrators make signs in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

Even before a draft ruling was leaked that suggested the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, a wave of new state restrictions had prompted some private employers to announce they would help their workers access procedures elsewhere.

Here's what we're following:

Canada's minister of families, children and social development, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that Americans could access care at providers across the border. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also voiced strong support for abortion rights yesterday.

Roe v. Wade has been the focus of anti-abortion groups since the opinion came down in 1973, but the history of the movement started more than a century before Roe v. Wade, with roots in British common law.

Singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers has joined a growing list of celebrities and activists choosing to share their abortion stories publicly. The 27-year-old shared on Instagram and Twitter thatshe had an abortion using medication while on tour in October.

    Member stations report

    How lawmakers in a red state and a blue state are preparing for a potential end to Roe

    Posted May 4, 2022 at 12:36 PM EDT

    While waiting for the Supreme Court to release its final decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, advocates and lawmakers across the country are preparing for a potential end to federal abortion protections.

    Such a ruling likely would make it much harder to access abortions in conservative states, and as a result liberal states may accelerate their efforts to become national havens for abortion rights.

    To learn more about what those actions look like in the wake of the draft opinion leak, Morning Edition's Leila Fadel spoke with Jackson, Miss.-based Brittney Brown of the Gulf States Newsroom and Danielle Venton with KQED in San Francisco.

    Listen to their conversation here.

    Brown and Venton were out reporting in two very different environments yesterday.

    Brown visited the clinic at the center of the Supreme Court case (also known as "The Pink House") which normally sees a throng of protesters but was unusually empty except for some journalists and volunteer clinic escorts. She spoke with one anti-abortion activist who says he is "cautiously optimistic" about the future.

    On the West Coast, Venton stopped by a rally of more than 1,000 people, where she says the loudest voices were those of abortion rights activists who decried the draft decision and applauded the actions of their state's elected officials.

    Mississippi is one of the many southern states with "trigger laws" that automatically would ban abortion in almost all cases if Roe were overturned. Its governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House all have said the same thing, Brown says: They are not pleased with the leak, but agree with the impending decision.

    Mississippi organizations that fund abortions and help people cross state lines to access them are raising money and seeking volunteers. Meanwhile, the Pink House is still providing abortions, and its CEO says it's planning to open other locations next month in New Mexico that will accept patients from Mississippi.

    In California, the governor and state legislature are proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would ensure the right to an abortion and make it what some lawmakers call "a reproductive freedom state." That amendment would go before both the legislature and the public for a vote, Venton explains.

    What does a reproductive freedom state actually look like? Venton says the amendment would include things like legal protections for patients and clinicians, the right to choose a provider and the rights to privacy and confidentiality.

    Plus, the Legislative Women's Caucus is advancing 13 different bills in Sacramento that would take steps like dropping copays for abortions and directing more funds to support clinics.

    State Sen. Nancy Skinner says California will welcome people from other states who are seeking abortions: "We'll do everything we can to allow them to exercise their reproductive freedom."

    Just In
    Politics

    Biden says threat to Roe is 'about a lot more than abortion'

    Posted May 4, 2022 at 11:54 AM EDT
    President Biden stands outside wearing a suit and aviators, against a bright blue sky.
    Nicholas Kamm
    /
    AFP via Getty Images
    President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday.

    President Biden reiterated his concerns that a potential Supreme Court decision to overturn the right to an abortion established by Roe v. Wade could pose a threat to LGBTQ rights and contraception rights.

    Biden recalled his questioning of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork over privacy rights in 1987: “I said, ‘I believe I have the rights that I have, not because the government gave him to me, which you believe. But because I'm just a child of God.’"

    “What are the next things that are going to be attacked? Because this MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that's existed in American history — in recent American history,” Biden added.

    Democrats are working to draw as sharp a contrast as possible with Republicans ahead of the midterm election, which historically has been an unfavorable referendum on a first-term president’s party.

    Before taking questions on abortion rights, Biden delivered remarks on the economy, highlighting its strengths ahead of expected Federal Reserve action to raise interest rates.

    There too, Biden cast Republicans as extreme, citing a plan from Florida Sen. Rick Scott — chairman of the Senate GOP’s campaign arm — that would impose federal income taxes on millions who currently make too little to owe them and require all legislation to sunset after five years, which could take away the guarantee of Social Security and Medicare safety nets.

    Investigation

    The Supreme Court marshal leading the leak investigation is a career Army lawyer

    Posted May 4, 2022 at 11:41 AM EDT
    The outside of the U.S. Supreme Court building, in front of a blue sky with clouds.
    Alex Wong
    /
    Getty Images
    The exterior of the U.S. Supreme Court pictured in Washington, DC in May 2020. Col. Gail Curley, the current court marshal, has been tasked with investigating the source of the leaked draft opinion.

    While the public continues processing the contents of the leaked draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court is trying to figure out how it got out in the first place.

    Chief Justice John Roberts stressed in a Tuesday statement that the draft opinion does not represent the court's final decision. He called the leak a "betrayal of the confidences of the court" but vowed that its work will not be affected in any way.

    "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, adding that he had directed the marshal of the court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.

    The duties of the Supreme Court marshal typically include handling security for the building and the justices (in addition to announcing the justices' entrance into the chambers with the famous call of "Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!").

    Col. Gail Curley, a former U.S. Army attorney, has served as the court's marshal since June 2021. Now she's tasked with finding the source of possibly the biggest leaks in modern Supreme Court history — even though it doesn't appear to involve any sort of crime.

    Here's what we know about Curley.

    She's the second woman to ever hold this position

    Curley's appointment was announced by the Supreme Court on May 3, 2021 — exactly one year before she was charged with solving one of its highest-profile mysteries.

    She replaced Pamela Talkin, who had retired the previous year after nearly two decades in the role, which she was the first woman to hold. Curley is the 11th marshal of the Supreme Court since the position was created in 1867.

    The court describes her role as its "chief security officer, facilities administrator and contracting executive." She manages some 260 employees — including the Supreme Court Police Force, which protects the court's grounds, justices, employees, visitors and guests.

    She's a career Army lawyer who has served overseas

    The West Point graduate holds a law degree from the University of Illinois, as well as two masters degrees from The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School and the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy.

    Curley held a variety of legal positions throughout her Army career. From 2016 to 2019 she was the staff judge advocate for the U.S. Army Europe headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany. In that capacity, she "served as the senior U.S. Army attorney for an area consisting of 50 nations and supervised over 300 legal professionals," the court said.

    Her most recent job was as the chief of the National Security Law Division in the Office of the Judge Advocate General.

    "She supervised a team of judge advocates, led the strategic engagements program for the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and provided legal advice and support on national security law to senior Army leadership," the court explains.

    She has the authority to make certain arrests

    According to Bloomberg Law, the marshal and Supreme Court police have the authority to make arrests for violations of state or federal law while providing security — but in the case of this leak, any potential decision on prosecution most likely would come from the Justice Department.

    Republican members of the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to the Justice Department on Tuesday requesting an investigation into the leak, as Axios reported, following comments from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that the leak — rather than the substance of the opinion — was the big story of the day.

    Still, as NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson says, prosecution looks unlikely: "This is not a national security issue, this is not classified information, so it doesn't seem like there's any crime here."

    Politics

    Oklahoma's governor signs a Texas-style abortion law, halting procedures past 6 weeks

    Posted May 4, 2022 at 11:14 AM EDT

    Oklahoma's Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a Texas-style abortion ban on Tuesday that prohibits abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, part of a nationwide push in GOP-led states hopeful that the conservative U.S. Supreme Court will uphold new restrictions.

    "I want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country," Stitt tweeted after signing the bill.

    Stitt's signing of the bill comes on the heels of a leaked draft opinion from the nation's high court that it is considering weakening or overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago.

    The bill Stitt signed takes effect immediately with his signature, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday denied an emergency request to temporarily halt the bill. Abortion providers say now that the new law is in effect, they will immediately stop providing services for women after six weeks of pregnancy.

    "While the law is in effect, which it now is because the governor signed it, abortion services after six weeks will be largely unavailable," said Rabia Muqaddam, a staff attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Oklahoma abortion providers in the case. "It's a short-term loss, but we're hopeful that the Oklahoma Supreme Court will still grant us relief."

    The new law prohibits abortions once cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo, which experts say is roughly six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. A similar bill approved in Texas last year led to a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions performed in that state, with many women going to Oklahoma and other surrounding states for the procedure.

    Read more about the new law.

    Protests

    Salesforce Tower, San Francisco's tallest, was scaled by an anti-abortion protester

    Posted May 4, 2022 at 11:09 AM EDT

    A man who says he is opposed to abortion rights was arrested yesterday after climbing the 1,070-foot-tall Salesforce Tower, the tallest building in San Francisco.

    Maison Des Champs said he was “a rock climber that has recently started climbing Skyscrapers to end abortion."

    NBC Bay Area reports that the 22-year-old from Las Vegas was arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest.

    Business

    Some companies have started assuring workers they’ll help them access abortions

    Posted May 4, 2022 at 11:00 AM EDT
    An Amazon Prime logo appears on the side of a delivery van as it departs an Amazon warehouse in Dedham, Mass., in 2020.
    Steven Senne
    /
    AP
    An Amazon Prime logo appears on the side of a delivery van as it departs an Amazon warehouse in Dedham, Mass., in 2020.

    E-commerce giant Amazon announced on Monday that it would pay employees up to $4,000 in travel expenses each year for non-life threatening medical treatments, including abortions, according to Reuters.

    It's one of the latest companies to assure workers living in states with abortion restrictions or bans that it would help them cover the cost of traveling out of state to seek reproductive health care elsewhere.

    Such moves garnered renewed attention this week after a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court crystallized the possibility that Roe v. Wade could be overturned, meaning millions of Americans could lose access to abortions where they live.

    Amazon wasn’t first. The recent wave of laws signed by Republican governors to limit or ban abortion — even before a Supreme Court ruling makes those state rules constitutional — already had prompted some private employers to announce they would help their workers access abortions elsewhere.

    Citigroup said in an SEC filing in April that “in response to changes in reproductive healthcare laws in certain states in the U.S., beginning in 2022 we provide travel benefits to facilitate access to adequate resources.”

    The move prompted criticism from Republicans in Congress as well as in Texas, which enacted a ban last year on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

    Other companies that have announced similar efforts to bypass new abortion restrictions include Yelp, Uber and Lyft, according to CNN.

    International

    A Canadian official says Americans can get abortions there if Roe is overturned

    Posted May 4, 2022 at 9:58 AM EDT
    People print signs reading "my body, my choice" next to small American flags on the pavement.
    Brendan Smialowski
    /
    AFP via Getty Images
    Demonstrators make signs in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

    While it's not yet clear what resemblance the Supreme Court's leaked draft opinion will bear to the final version, its current form suggests Justices may soon reverse federal abortion protections.

    And if that does come to pass, at least one Canadian official says Americans who are able to travel across the northern border will be able access the procedure there.

    Karina Gould, the minister of families, children and social development, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday that Canada would allow Americans to obtain abortions.

    "I don't see why we would not," she said on the CBC News Network's Power & Politics. "If they, people, come here and need access, certainly, you know, that's a service that would be provided."

    A spokesperson for Gould later told the network that Americans accessing health care services in Canada — which has a universal, publicly-funded health care system — would continue to have to pay for the service either out-of-pocket or with their own private insurance, if they're not covered by one of Canada's provincial health plans.

    The Detroit Free Press says the move would be possible in theory but more complicated in practice, noting that availability isn't the same as accessibility. Distance from an abortion provider could pose a challenge, as could pandemic precautions at the international border and the additional cost of travel.

    Gould also expressed worry about what such a decision could mean for Canadians who would otherwise travel to the U.S. for an abortion.

    "One of the concerning factors here is that there are many Canadian women who maybe don't live near a major city in Canada, but will often access these services in the United States," she said. "I'm very concerned about the leak yesterday. I'm very concerned about what this means, particularly for American women, but also for Canadian women."

    Thousands of Canadians had abortions in the U.S. in the 1980s, after Roe was first decided but before abortion became legal in Canada, according to the Detroit Free Press.

    Canada does not currently have a federal law governing abortion, which is legal at all stages of pregnancy, regardless of the reason. Its National Abortion Federation explains that it is "treated like other medical procedures and regulated through provincial/territorial and professional bodies."

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted on Tuesday about the importance of protecting women's rights, without specifically mentioning the Supreme Court's draft opinion.

    "The right to choose is a woman’s right and a woman’s right alone. Every woman in Canada has a right to a safe and legal abortion," he wrote. "We’ll never back down from protecting and promoting women’s rights in Canada and around the world."

    As Americans find themselves on the cusp of potentially losing federal abortion protections, many other countries are in the process of making it more accessible, as the Associated Press reports. Argentina, Ireland, Mexico and most recently Colombia are among the countries that have moved to legalize or ease access to abortion in the past few years.

    Mexico's Supreme Court voted to decriminalize abortion this past September, days after Texas enacted a law banning the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.

    Paula Avila-Guillen, executive director of the Women's Equality Center, noted at the time that it was legal for people in the border state of Coahuila to terminate their pregnancies through the first trimester, and asked: "Could the safest way for Texan women to have access to a safe, legal abortion soon be to make their way to Mexico?"

    Music

    Singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers says she had an abortion last year

    Posted May 4, 2022 at 9:29 AM EDT
    Phoebe Bridgers, wearing a cream-colored suit, smiles while standing against a purple backdrop.
    Emma McIntyre
    /
    Getty Images for Billboard
    Phoebe Bridgers attends Billboard Women in Music 2022 at YouTube Theater in March 2022 in Inglewood, California.

    Phoebe Bridgers has joined a growing list of celebrities andsocial media users publicly sharing their abortion stories following the leak of the Supreme Court's draft opinion.

    The 27-year-old singer-songwriter shared on her Instagram story and on Twitter that she had an abortion while she was on tour in October.

    "I went to [Planned Parenthood] where they gave me the abortion pill," she wrote. "It was easy. Everyone deserves that kind of access."

    Bridgers also encouraged people to donate to abortion funds in states where access to the procedure is already restricted, sharing a link to a list of such resources fromThe Cut.

    People amplified Bridgers' message on social media, sharing their support and thanking her for her transparency.

    This isn't the first time Bridgers has spoken out about abortion rights, asPeoplenotes.

    After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill in October banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, she recorded a cover of Bo Burnham's "That Funny Feeling" — which is about experiencing anxiety and dread over the state of the world — and sold it on Bandcamp, with all proceeds going to Texas Abortion Funds.

    As NPR has reported, more activists who have had abortions themselves are now saying so out loud. This comic tells the stories of several of those women.

    History

    The movement against abortion rights is nearing its apex. But it began way before Roe

    Posted May 4, 2022 at 9:02 AM EDT
    Protestors hold signs that oppose abortion access.
    Alex Wong/Getty Images
    /
    Getty Images North America
    Activists that oppose abortion take part in the annual "March for Life" event January 22, 2002 in Washington, DC.

    The Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in 1973, saying that access to abortion was protected in the United States.

    The decision fueled the anti-abortion movement and congealed it, too. Prior to Roe, anti-abortion activists were operating on a state level, but the Supreme Court's ruling turned the movement into a national one.

    In the decades before the decision, opposition to abortion was a fairly bipartisan issue. In fact, many Democrats in elected positions were likely to oppose easing abortion access because many represented Catholics, who largely were opposed to abortion. But even then, it wasn't a politically charged topic.

    But the history of organized opposition to abortion access stretches back even further than that, to more than a century before Roe v. Wade, with roots in British common law.

    Click here for the full story of the history of the anti-abortion movement, orlisten to it on NPR One.

    Politics

    Harris says overturning Roe would be 'a direct assault on freedom' for all Americans

    Posted May 4, 2022 at 8:25 AM EDT
    Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a podium in front of a pink and purple background.
    Brendan Smialowski
    /
    AFP via Getty Images
    Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the EMILY's List National Conference and Gala in Washington yesterday.

    Vice President Kamala Harris says women's rights in America are under attack. Her comments come in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests an uncertain future for the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling.

    Harris was speaking at an event for the Democratic group EMILY's List, which is dedicated to electing women candidates who support the right to an abortion.

    "If the court overturns Roe v. Wade it will be a direct assault on freedom," she said, "on the fundamental right of self-determination to which all Americans are entitled."

    While the court has said that no decision is final, Harris warned that if Roe is overturned, people in more than a dozen states would lose access to abortions immediately, while access would be severely limited elsewhere in the country.

    She also warned that if the justices follow through with this ruling, it could further extend to other privacy rights including same-sex marriage.

    Read more here.

    Politics

    The potential end of Roe fuels a debate: Is the U.S. becoming a minority-rule country?

    Posted May 4, 2022 at 8:24 AM EDT
    Police officers watch from outside the Supreme Court as protesters wave signs.
    Stefani Reynolds
    /
    AFP via Getty Images
    The Contemplation of Justice statue is seen behind police as they watch protesters outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

    What could the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade mean for U.S. politics?

    Some of the implications are clear — like the fact that it would open the door for states to pass laws restricting and criminalizing abortion. Others remain to be seen — for example, will abortion rights be more motivating for Democratic voters than issues like immigration, inflation and crime are for Republicans and independent voters?

    "In the past abortion rights has always been a bigger motivation for conservatives than for liberals," says NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. "The question now is, is this potential ruling a tipping point?"

    Liasson tells Morning Edition that while the long-term political impact is not yet clear, such a decision is all but certain to spark a broader, ongoing debate about whether the U.S. is turning into a minority-rule country.

    A majority of the justices on the court were appointed by presidents who didn't get a majority of the popular vote, Liasson explains, and in some cases they were confirmed by senators representing a minority of voters.

    Meanwhile, polls consistently have shown that public opinion is solidly behind upholding Roe, with more than 50% of Americans supporting it and less than 30% in favor of overturning it.

    "So I think you're going to hear a lot of talk about that, whether the structure of the Senate and Electoral College and extreme gerrymandering is leading to minority rule in this country," Liasson says. "And we'll find out if voters are comfortable with that."

    In the short-term

    If the court does overturn Roe, Liasson expects to see conservative states take more action to restriction abortion — some have talked about criminalizing the procedure or even making it a crime to take someone across state lines to get one.

    Some activists on the right have talked about passing national abortion restrictions if Republicans gain control of Congress, she adds, while others are being more cautious and waiting for the court to actually issue its ruling.

    Democrats like President Biden are warning that the rationale behind such a ruling could be used to roll back other rights that courts have based on a constitutional right to privacy, including marriage equality and access to contraception.

    There's not much Democrats in Congress can do to secure abortion rights nationally, since they don't have the votes to pass something in the Senate that would codify Roe. Even if Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins were to support such legislation, Liasson explains, there still wouldn't be enough votes to break the filibuster.

    Listen to the full conversation.