We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

As abortion ruling nears, U.S. Supreme Court erects barricades to the public

The scene at the court has become more tense following protests and threats against some justices prompted by the May leak of a draft opinion indicating they are set to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

Abortion rights and anti-abortion protesters gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington
Police arrest abortion rights activist Guido Reichstadter of Miami after he chained himself to security fencing while protesting against the court's expected decision overturning the 1973 landmark Roe v Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide, outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, on June 6, 2022.
EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS
We are part of The Trust Project.

WASHINGTON — Encircled by an ominous security fence and off-limits to the public since March 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised in the coming weeks to issue a major ruling that could dramatically curtail abortion rights from behind closed doors with not a single justice in sight.

No members of the public have been allowed in the courthouse since COVID-19 pandemic precautions were implemented in March 2020. The scene at the court has become more tense following protests and threats against some of the nine justices prompted by the May leak of a draft opinion indicating they are set to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The court has a 6-3 conservative majority.

More coverage of the abortion debate
A group called Mothers Offering Maternal Support is attempting to intervene after Ramsey County Judge Thomas Gilligan in July tossed several laws restricting abortion, including a 24-hour wait period and a requirement for minors to notify both parents before getting the procedure. Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, who backs abortion rights, declined to file an appeal in the case, arguing his office had spent three years and more than half a million dollars defending the laws in the case Doe v. Minnesota.
Now confronted with a challenge from the other side of the abortion debate, Republican nominee for Minnesota attorney general Jim Schultz continues to downplay the issue’s importance in the race. He argues the attorney general’s office ultimately has very little influence over abortion policy in the state of Minnesota and said the question is fundamentally for the legislature to decide.
Critics say warnings over "post-abortion syndrome" are unsupported by the best evidence and that the state Positive Alternatives Grant Program should not be funding crisis pregnancy centers that endorse it.
“In Minnesota, it's a protected constitutional right, and no governor can change that,” said Jensen, a Chaska family practice physician. A pro-abortion rights doctors group said Jensen was attempting to obscure his past statements in support of an abortion ban.
Earlier this month, Traverse County Attorney Matthew Franzese filed a petition with District Court Judge Thomas Gilligan Jr. asking to intervene in the case. Gilligan in July handed a victory to abortion providers who had filed a lawsuit in 2019 challenging state regulations, including a 24-hour wait period for the procedure.
A mother and foster parent from McGregor, Minnesota, sued under the Minnesota Human Rights Act in 2019 after a pharmacist said he couldn’t fill her prescription for the “morning after" pill Ella because of his religious beliefs. However, the jury found the longtime pharmacist liable for $25,000 in emotional damages. Legal advocacy nonprofit Gender Justice said it will file for an appeal in the case.
The two candidates in the Republican primary for attorney general are political newcomer Jim Schultz and 2018 candidate Doug Wardlow. Incumbent Keith Ellison is the likely DFL nominee.
Abortion pill reversal, a controversial and harmful practice intended to ‘reverse’ an abortion halfway through, is still being advertised by Rochester's First Care Pregnancy Center and other Minnesota anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. First Care Pregnancy Center does not receive state funds, but five centers that promote the practice do.
Traverse County Attorney Matthew Franzese is petitioning Ramsey County District Court Judge Thomas Gilligan to intervene in a case that ended Minnesota abortion restrictions, including a 24-hour wait period. Attorney General Keith Ellison, who was defending the state’s laws in that case, announced last week he would not appeal the ruling.
Abria Pregnancy Resources is not a political organization, and its centers in St. Paul and Minneapolis “provide a positive alternative to abortion,” officials said.

The 8-foot tall fencing was erected in the days after the leak as the court ramped up security measures.

While the rest of official Washington, including other government buildings including the White House and Capitol, has reopened its doors to the public at least partially as the pandemic ebbs, the top U.S. judicial body remains in a form of lockdown with what appears to be siege mentality even as it wields huge influence over public policy.

For Guido Reichstadter, an abortion-rights protester camped out in front of the courthouse since the beginning of June, the fencing is a sign of how out of touch the justices — or at least the six conservative ones — are with public sentiment.

ADVERTISEMENT

"They are trying to insulate themselves from the effects of their actions. Why else would you put a fence up?" Reichstadter asked.

Reichstadter was arrested on June 6 for locking himself to the fence by the neck and spent a night in jail.

"To me it sends a message that they are weak, they are afraid, they are isolated," Reichstadter said of the fence.

Emotions have run high since the Politico news organization published the draft abortion decision authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito on May 2.

Since then, protesters have rallied outside the homes of some of the conservative justices. A California man named Nicholas Roske, carrying a handgun, ammunition, a crow bar and pepper spray, was charged with attempted murder after being arrested on June 8 near Justice Brett Kavanaugh's Maryland residence.

Congress on Tuesday passed legislation to bolster security for the nine justices, though lawmakers did not include protections for the families of clerks and other Supreme Court employees due to Republican opposition.

After the leak, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, known for his criticism of the Roe ruling, said on May 6 at a legal conference in Atlanta that the court should not be "bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want."

Anti-abortion advocates are sympathetic to concerns about the safety of the justices, saying they also have received threats following the leak.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I would say the court is protecting itself, protecting their employees," said Kristan Hawkins, president of the group Students for Life.

Abortion rights protesters participate in nationwide demonstrations, in Washington
Law enforcement officers stand guard behind a fence surrounding The Supreme Court Building after a rally held by abortion rights protesters during nationwide demonstrations following the leaked Supreme Court opinion suggesting the possibility of overturning the Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision, in Washington, on May 14, 2022.
LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS

EMERGING SLOWLY

The abortion ruling will come in a case involving a Republican-backed Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy that was struck down by lower courts as a violation of the Roe precedent. The court also has 17 other cases to decide, with the term usually completed by the end of June, including rulings that could expand gun rights, favor Christian conservatives and limit the power of the federal government to combat climate change, among other issues.

The court has emerged slowly from the pandemic. It resumed in-person oral arguments last October after holding remote arguments by teleconference for 18 months, but let only court staff, lawyers and some reporters into the courtroom. Since the court completed oral arguments for the term on April 27, outsiders have been kept from the building.

One of the many changes in court practice instituted during the pandemic was issuing rulings only online, with no official court session. That means justices no longer read from the bench summaries of their rulings and dissenting opinions. It was previously an opportunity for justices who strongly disagreed with a ruling to passionately voice their views.

A court spokesperson did not respond to a question on why the justices have not resumed reading announcements from the bench. The court has not said when, or if, such sessions will resume. It has shown no signs of live-streaming audio of opinion announcements in the same way that audio of oral arguments has been provided.

Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a group advocating for court reform, said there is no reason not to livestream decision announcements, noting it would be the equivalent of President Joe Biden holding a news conference in which he summarized a new executive order.

"It's infuriating they are so resistant to change, but that's kind of what they are known for," Roth said of the court.

ADVERTISEMENT

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; editing by Will Dunham.)

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

What to read next
One of the mightiest storms to hit the U.S. mainland in recent years, Ian flooded communities before plowing across the peninsula to the Atlantic seaboard. Local power companies said more than 2.5 million homes and businesses in Florida remained without power.
The right foods and a good strategy can make even the pickiest of eaters look forward to the midday meal.
The November 2021 $1 trillion infrastructure bill provides $5 billion to help states install EV chargers along interstate highways over five years. States now have access to more than $1.5 billion to help build EV chargers, USDOT said. The White House announced earlier this month it had approved 35 of the 50 state plans.