TAMPA, Fla. — People have taken to the streets of St. Petersburg and Tampa after a leaked draft opinion suggested the U.S. Supreme Court intended to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that affirmed a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.
Politico published the leaked document on Monday. By Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts had confirmed the document's authenticity and ordered an investigation into how it was made public before any final decision had ever been made.
All of this ties back to a case from Mississippi that could have ripple effects across the nation.
In the coming months, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling about Mississippi's effort to ban most abortions after 15 weeks in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Legal analysts have drawn comparisons to Florida's 15-week abortion restriction bill, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in April 2022.
If the current court rules as the leaked majority opinion document indicates, it would set a new precedent. Right now, the two big abortion cases that lower courts point to for precedent are the aforementioned 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, which rejected some of Roe but upheld its "essential holding" that a woman's right to choose is constitutionally protected before a fetus is viable.
The Casey ruling said the government can't put an "undue burden" on women trying to have abortions early in their pregnancies.
Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the leaked draft, indicated in the document that the court would overrule both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
In response to that news, a series of protests have begun nationwide, including around Tampa Bay. Abortion rights activists fear several states will make it harder to get abortions if the Supreme Court rules as expected.
Several states have what's known as "trigger bans" in place, meaning an overturn of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey would effectively trigger an automatic abortion ban. These states include Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
Current Florida law allows abortions up to 24 weeks. But, this spring, Gov. DeSantis signed the bill mentioned above that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks, with few exceptions — not including rape, incest or trafficking. As it stands, that law is set to take place on July 1, though it is facing some legal challenges. A Supreme Court ruling in the Mississippi case could change how the lower courts view those challenges.
6:48 p.m. -- Protesters move onto Central Avenue
A crowd of people holding signs took their message to the streets, walking down the road with messages that said things like "Legal Abortion Once and For All."
6:04 p.m. -- Second protest forms in St. Pete
Just a few minutes from the courthouse, a growing number of people held signs and spoke against the anticipated Supreme Court decision.
5:23 p.m. -- Joe Chillura Courthouse Square
A separate group of protestors gathered outside at a park next to the Joe Chillura Courthouse Square, 10 Tampa Bay has learned.
5 p.m. -- Pinellas County Courthouse
About a hundred people gathered in front of the Pinellas County Judicial Building on 1st Avenue in St. Petersburg. The event, organized by Planned Parenthood, included four formal speakers, including former Florida governor and current Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.
This is a live blog. 10 Tampa Bay has a crew at the protest in St. Petersburg and will keep this story updated with the latest information.