The news came as no surprise, but it was nevertheless emotionally overwhelming, incredibly impactful and expectedly divisive.
On Friday, the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, which for nearly 50 years gave women the constitutional protection for abortion.
The Associated Press’ Mark Sherman wrote, “The ruling, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.”
The news sent shockwaves throughout the country. Networks and cable news stations broke into regularly scheduled programming with wall-to-wall coverage.
But, again, even though Sherman was correct when he wrote that this day seemed “unthinkable” just a few years ago, Friday’s blockbuster ruling was expected. At least for the past couple of months. It was on May 2 when Politico’s Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward had one of the biggest media scoops in recent memory when they obtained an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito and circulated inside the court that said Roe v. Wade would be overturned.
Within a day of the Politico story, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed that the leaked memo was authentic. So while we’ve known for several weeks that Friday’s news was coming, it still felt … stunning.
Yet it would appear major media outlets used that time well and were well prepared to cover Friday’s breaking news.
And now, as we wake up on this Monday morning, here’s a look at some of the stories worth your time:
- In the hours following Friday’s news, The Washington Post put out a call to ask readers how they felt and why. They received more than 23,000 responses. Leslie Shapiro and N. Kirkpatrick wrote, “Numb. Shattered. Happy. Ashamed. Heartbroken. Elated. Livid. Indifferent. Pleased. Powerless. Gutted. Grateful. These are just some of the words our readers used to describe their feelings about the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion.” They added, “The chorus of voices celebrated and decried the outcome, making it clear that abortion remains a deeply polarizing issue.”
- In a strong column for the Post, Jennifer Rubin writes, “The Supreme Court declares war on modern America.” Rubin says, “As bad as this particular opinion is, the broader picture is about much more than abortion.” She adds, “The right-wing court wants to lock 21st-century America into the Founders’ world or, at the latest, the late 19th century, conveniently skipping past the parts of history that disfavor its cramped view of individual rights. Women, minorities, gay people and others once had little political, economic or social power. And so they will again, if the court gets its way.”
- Great insight here from The New York Times’ Charlie Savage in “Decades Ago, Alito Laid Out Methodical Strategy to Eventually Overrule Roe.” (Justice Alito wrote Friday’s majority opinion.)
- The New York Times’ Alisha Haridasani Gupta with “The Voices of Men Affected by Abortion.”
- The 19th’s Jennifer Gerson and Chabeli Carrazana with “How clinics in states where you can get an abortion are preparing for ‘a wave of clients.’”
- In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, author and UC Davis School of Law professor Mary Ziegler with an op-ed, “How to move forward after the destruction of Roe vs. Wade.” Ziegler writes, “Whether people in America can access abortion will not depend on six conservative justices. It will depend on the support progressive states provide, the ingenuity of people who support abortion access, and the ability of conservative states to shut down those avenues.”
- The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Kusisto with “Abortion Opponents Consider How Far to Press After End of Roe v. Wade.”
- Also from the Journal, Theo Francis, Kate King and Teresa Mettela with “Churches Move Cautiously on Abortion and Call for Calm Post-Roe.”
- And an important media angle from the Los Angeles Times’ Kevin Rector: “LAPD treatment of journalists denounced, again, after abortion rights protest downtown.”
- The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer with “The Constitution Is Whatever the Right Wing Says It Is.” Serwer ominously writes that Friday’s decision is “just the beginning of the Court’s mission to reshape all of American society according to conservative demands, without fear of public opposition.”
- And one more from The Atlantic: Elaine Godfrey with “America Is About to See Just How Pro-life Republicans Actually Are.”
The polls say …
In one of the first surveys following Friday’s decision, a CBS News poll showed that by a more than 20-point margin, Americans called Roe v. Wade being overturned a step back rather than forward for America. And women polled, by more than three to one, think the ruling will make women’s lives worse rather than better. Go to the link for more questions and breakdowns.
So what might some of this mean for the midterm elections? Well, last week — just two days before the court’s expected decision came down — a USA Today/Suffolk University poll showed that even those who opposed striking down Roe v. Wade, by a 59% to 29% tally, said that the economy is more important when they vote in November. Seven in 10 said the Supreme Court’s decision will have no impact on whether they vote in November.
Again, this was before the official ruling. Might that sentiment have changed with the emotions stirred up by the ruling actually going into effect?
Meanwhile, Politico’s Sarah Ferris and Ally Mutnick write that this is a dicey issue for Republican candidates in battleground states. Ferris and Mutnick write, “Multiple Republicans in tough races this fall — incumbents in districts Joe Biden carried — avoided abortion questions in the hours after the decision. Several others said only that it was an issue for states, not whether they’d support any legislation Democrats might put on the floor.”
They added, “Democrats say that silence, or occasional deflection, is a telling sign that Republicans know abortion rights remain broadly popular with much of the electorate — and that the GOP will soon face the wrath of suburban and purple-district voters. Some Republicans, too, acknowledge that abortion rights polling generally favors the left.”
The headline on a Washington Post story from Annie Linskey and Colby Itkowitz: “Democrats seize on abortion ruling in midterms as Republicans tread carefully.”
Linskey and Itkowitz write, “Democrats across the country are seizing on the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, with state and federal candidates seeking to turn anger about the decision into support at the ballot box, even as Republicans aim to keep attention on rising prices and crime less than five months before the midterms.”
But South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested the voters have already decided, telling “Fox News Sunday,” “This was won through the ballot box by conservatives, and we’re not gonna let liberals intimidate the rule-of-law system to take it away from us.”
Not buying it
During an appearance on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Peggy Noonan said the court’s decision removes the topic of abortion from the federal level and returns it to the state level, but added, “I do not see this big decision as a settlement of this question, but I do think it has put forward a legitimate, and to me a desirable democratic settlement and it’ll be turbulent for the next few years.”
But later, she had some of the panel, most notably moderator Chuck Todd, laughing out loud at something she said. The humor was unintentional. The panel included NBC News chief Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell, NBC News senior Capitol Hill correspondent Garrett Haake and Kimberly Atkins Stohr, senior opinion writer for The Boston Globe.
Noonan said, “Look, you know what the Republican Party should do now? It should use this victory, if you see it that way, to change itself and become a party that helps women …”
By this point, the panel was already laughing and talking over Noonan as she continued “… to change its reputation (and) become a party that helps women and children, becomes responsible and supportive.”
Stohr interrupted with “We are here because Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell got together and made a litmus test for overturning Roe for Supreme Court nominees. Sandra Day O’Connor did not have that litmus test. David Souter didn’t have it. Anthony Kennedy didn’t have it. That is why we are here — because Republicans from the top set the tone.”
Twitter had a field day with Noonan’s take that was, uh, eyebrow-raising to say the least.
Other notable Sunday morning comments
Of course, Friday’s news was the major focus of the Sunday morning news programs. Among the notable commentary and comments:
Talking about recent GOP-nominated Supreme Court nominees who were asked about Roe v. Wade during their confirmation hearings, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told “Meet the Press”: “They lied. … It sends a blaring signal to all future nominees that they can now lie to duly elected members of the United States Senate in order to secure Supreme Court confirmations.”
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and talked about the state’s trigger law that immediately banned abortions and makes performing an abortion a felony. Noem told moderator Martha Raddatz, “I don’t believe women should ever be prosecuted. I don’t believe that mothers in this situation (should) ever be prosecuted. Now doctors who knowingly violate the law — they should be prosecuted.”
Noem said the same thing on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams was asked by host Jake Tapper whether the Senate should sidestep the filibuster to codify Roe v. Wade. Abrams said, “I would support lifting it for Roe v. Wade. I would support lifting it for voting rights. These are constitutional issues. I believe — and I have said this very consistently — that when we are talking about fundamental protections that should be accorded to every citizen in our country, then the filibuster is wrong. And we should suspend the filibuster with regards to voting rights, and we should suspend the filibuster with regards to making certain that we can protect the constitutional right to privacy and the ability of women to make choices for themselves and their bodies.”
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, told CBS’s “Face the Nation,” “I am horrified … that my daughters will have fewer rights than I’ve had virtually my whole life.”
Susan Collins’ reaction
I mentioned in the previous item Ocasio-Cortez’s comments that recent GOP-nominated Supreme Court justices — in particular, Brett Kavanaugh — “lied” about their confirmation hearing stances on Roe v. Wade. Much of the attention now is turned toward Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who gave a key vote to confirm Kavanagh after she claims he gave her assurances that he would not overturn Roe v. Wade.
In a major media story Friday, The New York Times’ Carl Hulse wrote about this in “Kavanaugh Gave Private Assurances. Collins Says He ‘Misled’ Her.”
Using notes kept by Collins’ staff in an Aug. 21, 2018, meeting, Hulse writes that Kavanaugh “worked vigorously to reassure her that he was no threat to the landmark abortion rights ruling.”
According to the notes, Kavanaugh told Collins, “Roe is 45 years old, it has been reaffirmed many times, lots of people care about it a great deal, and I’ve tried to demonstrate I understand real-world consequences.” He added, “I am a don’t-rock-the-boat kind of judge. I believe in stability and in the Team of Nine.”
Collins now tells the Times, “I feel misled.”
Collins and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin voted to confirm Kavanaugh. The final vote ended up being 50-48.
Collins, who has supported a woman’s right to an abortion, put out a statement on Friday night, saying in part, “Throwing out a precedent overnight that the country has relied upon for half a century is not conservative. It is a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos, anger, and a further loss of confidence in our government.”
In a statement on Twitter, Manchin wrote, “I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans.”
Actor and activist Matthew McConaughey has written another column regarding guns for the Austin American-Statesman — specifically the bipartisan gun bill that recently passed. McConaughey writes, “This bill will save innocent lives by keeping guns out of the law-breaking and irresponsible hands that are trying to hijack the Second Amendment. This bill is a responsible investment in the future of our country and in America’s greatest asset, our children. This bill makes those whose lives have been needlessly cut short by gun violence matter. This bill is about more responsible gun ownership in America.”
McConaughey was born in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 schoolchildren and two teachers were killed on May 24 by a gunman using an AR-15-style rifle. Earlier this month, McConaughey had written another exclusive column for the American-Statesman calling for more responsibility on guns. He wrote then that he is a supporter of the Second Amendment, writing, “There is a difference between control and responsibility. The first is a mandate that can infringe on our right; the second is a duty that will preserve it. There is no constitutional barrier to gun responsibility. Keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous people is not only the responsible thing to do, it is the best way to protect the Second Amendment. We can do both.”
Paul Tash retires
Paul Tash is retiring this week as the CEO and chairman of the Tampa Bay Times. He will remain chairman of the Poynter Institute, which owns the Times.
If I can have just a personal moment here.
I’ve essentially worked for Paul — at the Times and at Poynter — for most of my career as a journalist. As much as I respect him as a journalist (the Times has won eight Pulitzer Prizes with him in charge), I respect him even more as a person.
Without going into details, I had a pretty severe health scare about a decade ago that resulted in my losing most of the sight in my left eye. While my family and I went through a rather uncertain and frightening time trying to figure out what was wrong with me, Tash could not have been kinder, offering support and guidance that went way beyond, “Hey, let me know if I can do anything.” And that I will never forget.
Tash has been one of my journalistic mentors, offering valuable advice throughout my career, and I’m incredibly grateful. But I’m even more grateful for the kindness he has shown me over the years.
As Tash enters his final days running the paper where he started as an intern in the 1970s, Tampa Bay Times reporter Jay Cridlin has an excellent profile: “‘He became the paper’: For Tampa Bay Times’ Paul Tash, a legacy of change.”
- The New York Times’ Paul Mozur, Muyi Xiao and John Liu with “‘An Invisible Cage’: How China Is Policing the Future.”
- In “The Illiberal Order,” The New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz reports from Hungary, a country that Marantz says offers a possible glimpse of America’s authoritarian future.
- The Associated Press’ Mark Kennedy with “Rick Astley revisits his career-making song with ‘gratitude.’”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: This story has been updated to say that Kristi Noem is the governor of South Dakota. Another state was listed in an earlier version.
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