After historic arguments at the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade's future is in doubt
NOEL KING, HOST:
The future of Roe v. Wade is in doubt. The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday about a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. Under Roe, women have a constitutional right to an abortion in the first two trimesters of pregnancy, about 22 to 24 weeks. The court's six conservative justices seemed comfortable with the Mississippi law.
With us now is Mario Diaz. He is the general counsel for Concerned Women for America. It's a group that opposes abortion rights. Mr. Diaz, good morning to you.
MARIO DIAZ: Noel, it's great to be with you.
KING: Do you want to see Roe v. Wade overturned entirely, or do you want to see the viability standard pushed back to something like 15 weeks? This was a big point of contention in the hearing yesterday.
DIAZ: Yes. I think as a - as an attorney, as a person who loves the Constitution, I want to see Roe overturned completely. And it has really nothing to do with the policy of abortion, which will continue to be debated, but with respect for the text of the Constitution. As you know, anyone can go and read the Constitution, and there is nothing in there about abortion. What the Constitution does say...
KING: There's a lot in there about individual liberty, though. That was - you know, that was the case...
KING: ...That was made yesterday. There's a lot of things that aren't in the Constitution.
KING: There is a lot about individual...
KING: ...Liberty, yeah?
DIAZ: Right. Yes, and - but the Constitution does say that those things that are not spelled out there are reserved for the states and for the people. And what the court did in Roe was take the voice - take the power away from the people and just place it on themselves, on those nine men at the time in 1973 - right? - who made this decision. And so I think it is way past time that we open up this conversation again. I think - we're not even able to have it because we're always trying to win the argument in court.
KING: I think there's an argument that it gave power to women to make decisions for themselves, but let's table that for a second.
If Roe is overturned, women will still seek abortions in this country. What should the penalty be for violating an abortion ban? Do you imagine prison time for doctors or for women?
DIAZ: I'm glad you say that because, you know, that is one thing that people are not understanding, is that the reversal of Roe will not make abortion illegal, right? We're not going to the Supreme Court and asking them to say that all abortion should be illegal and they should be activists on our side, if you will. We're asking them to recognize that the Constitution doesn't speak about it and return the power to the people. And then that will give us laws around the states that reflect what the people believe, where - they are more within the middle, right? They are more - wanting to have more flexibility in the types of law. If you look at the law that...
KING: It depends on the state. You're - you - you're aware it does depend on the state - right? - of course.
DIAZ: Right, right. The law in this case - or, for example, Mississippi, a very conservative state - is at 15 weeks. So you can see how reasonable people are when they are left to make their own decisions, right? The law at issue in the Roe case itself had exceptions for those difficult cases that we always get involved in. So I think that's what you will see from the people. And what you see is that they try to place the burden on doctors and not on women, of course, that are going through tough times when they come to this decision.
KING: If the court does leave abortion up to the states, there will be some large, populous states - where the majority of Americans live, in fact - where abortion will likely remain legal. Will your organization continue to press to make abortion illegal in those states, or will you effectively say, no, the states get to decide?
DIAZ: Yeah, I think we - you know, the way we look at it, we are trying to do something a little bit different, right? We're trying to get the culture and all Americans to sort of return to that just basic justice principle of valuing every human life, right?
I think one of the - again, one of the things that was robbed from us because of Roe was to recognize the humanity of the unborn child. You never hear a pro-life - I guess I shouldn't say never, but most pro-life people recognize the difficulty of women. They want to help. Most of them give their lives to help women in crisis pregnancies. So they recognize that. And they also want people to recognize the humanity of the child, but we are not able to have that conversation. Again, I think the court sort of poisoned the waters on this. I'm glad that even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that, you know, feminist icon, recognized that. She believed Roe really worsened what was a march toward progress, in her view, towards choice.
KING: Does - are you talking about conservative groups advocating for funding to expand services like child care and Medicaid? If we are talking about this culture of life and children being important, is that what you envision?
DIAZ: Yes. I mean, that is part - very much part of it and also holding fathers accountable. You know, we work with a lot of post-aborted women who say, I wouldn't have done this but for the situation I was in. So we are all for empowering women in that respect and helping them and society recognize the value of the baby.
KING: Mario Diaz is the general counsel for Concerned Women for America. Thank you for being with us.
DIAZ: I appreciate your time, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.