Following a bombshell leak from the Supreme Court on what looks like the almost certain overturning of Roe v. Wade, InsiderNJ spoke with Republican Senator Holly Schepisi, a Bergen County-based attorney and the first woman to represent LD-39 in the New Jersey Senate. Schepisi has concerns about the potential consequences of overturning the ruling as far as women’s health is concerned, particularly for the disadvantaged, but she is also alarmed by the fact that there was a leak in the Supreme Court at all, undermining its traditional, institutional confidentiality.
“I have indicated in the past that I am pro-choice, within reason,” Schepisi said. “I don’t agree in allowing eight-month abortions by a midwife or nurse practitioner or in any circumstance other than legitimately protecting the life of the mother. I do have concerns that in the event the court does overturn Roe v. Wade–not so much for states like New Jersey, but other states–about the impact that will have on women who don’t have the same resources as those who may be wealthier, as well as what that would mean for women’s health in some of those states. I also have grave concerns for the integrity of the court about having a leak of this magnitude happen, and what it will mean for the court looking forward.”
The leak, which is currently being investigated by order of the Supreme Court, represents a shock to the legal world as a breach of judiciary norms. This comes at a time when American politics is feverishly polarized and trust in governmental institutions is low. Schepisi said that the judicial branch, an equal branch of the three which make up the federal government, is expected to act as a tempering force for “expected” political discourse seen in the legislature and executive branches. Ordinarily, the judiciary is seen as above popular opinion and not built upon the shifting sands of public sentiment. “As an attorney, I do agree with Chief Justice John Roberts that [the leak] is an egregious breach of trust,” Schepisi said.
The senator also expressed her concern about what this leak will represent for the future. Judges have often been accused of legislating from the bench, and few federal level or Supreme Court justices are mentioned in the media without an accompanying reference as to which president appointed them. Rare, however, are court staffers or other members of the institutional framework a consideration as far as potentially affecting public opinion. “I think a first draft of any opinion, is just that, a first draft of an opinion. I have grave concerns that it’s setting precedent for clerks or others who may not like a ruling to try to use this as a means of trying to sway public opinion on very important matters. There is both an implicit as well as explicit concept of loyalty and dedication to the rules of law, as well as the tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the process. I think that it will create very significant concerns moving forward for all judicial decisions, whether or not we agree with them.”
Governor Phil Murphy responded to the leak Tuesday, saying, “I want to assure every New Jerseyan that today’s news about the Supreme Court does not change access to abortion in our state. Access to reproductive health care remains available to anyone who needs it in New Jersey.” This statement came shortly after he reminded New Jerseyans that he had signed the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act last year, adding that “New Jersey will not go backwards on reproductive rights.”
Senator Schepisi, while identifying as pro-choice in certain circumstances, feels that the Act “went way too far,” however. Acknowledging the political make-up of the Garden State, she said, “I think a state like New Jersey, regardless of who is ever in political control of it, would never have a complete reversal of Roe v. Wade.”