Dumas: It’s the leak of the abortion opinion that should give us pause, too

Karen Dumas

While serious concern has been given to the “leak” of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion on Roe v. Wade, attention should also be given to the strategy of using leaks as a communications tool, especially by the country's highest court.

When public entities leak information to the media, they usually release it to an outlet because of that perceived audience, and it’s typically done either to blunt the impact of an upcoming story or to achieve another specific outcome.

In many cases, and if done correctly, it works. Whether it will this time is yet to be determined. While I’m not sure what the intent was of this leak, it causes great concern as it relates to those who are charged with devising policies that literally shape our existence in this county.

If the leaked draft opinion has any validity, America is about to go back to square one on the issue of abortion, Dumas writes.

Roe v. Wade has been a controversial decision since it was reached in 1973, overturning laws restricting or banning abortion. It has been continually discussed, challenged and ridiculed now for nearly 50 years. And it's been upheld. Until now.

If the leaked draft opinion has any validity, America is about to go back to square one on the issue of abortion and the matter will be decided by elected officials based solely on the temperature of their party.

And that changes. Even then-Sen. Joe Biden voted to overturn Roe v. Wade in 1982.  

Part of the leaked draft, written by Justice Samuel Alito, expressed concern for the variables that have been argument points, and described the debates surrounding the issue as “animated.” Alito says that the decision as to whether a woman can have an abortion should be returned to those elected by the people. How about returning it to the people, themselves?

Those elected are there to serve those who put them there. That usually means they ride hard party or political lines with little to no variance based on changing circumstances or situations which may warrant reconsideration. But, while Supreme Court justices are appointed and allegedly objective, they are, too, political.

I believe that there are rights and rules, and that governing bodies are there to ensure that they work for those for whom they are supposed to help and protect. But there’s also a limit to what and where those decisions lie and what they should shape. A woman’s choice is one.

While early draft opinions in the past have changed before the final decision was announced, release of an early draft on such a controversial issue is nearly unprecedented. Shouldn’t we wonder why? Why are we reading Alito’s opinion prematurely? 

We’ve politically been pushed through COVID, the war in Ukraine and now Roe v. Wade. Add in inflation and the usual suspects of crime, unemployment, education, and fair wages for a politically combustible mix. Interesting dynamics for issues that impact every American in one way or another. I know that the communication machines are always working to ensure that the narrative is defined and supported, that positions are pushed and believed, and that people are moved in a way that suits the system. I believe this is one of those times.

The leak of the early draft opinion is evidence of that. 

Maneuvers like this reek of dirty politics, of which both parties are guilty. We need to watch and wonder why this happened as much as we are arguing that anticipated outcome.

Karen Dumas is a columnist for The Detroit News and the co-host of "The No BS News Hour." Her column appears on Tuesdays.