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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 5/3/22

Guests: Juanita Tolliver, Caroline Frederickson, Cecile Richards, Renee Bracey Sherman, Cori Bush


Supreme Court Justice John Roberts confirmed the leaked draft opinion on its decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade was authentic. The end of the right to legal abortion would trigger new bans across many Republican- led states. After the leaked ruling to end Roe v. Wade, the protesters gather at the Supreme Court. Congresswomen Cori Bush joins on THE BEAT with Ari Melber to talk about abortion bans disproportionately affecting poor women.



Tonight, we are reporting here from the Supreme Court of the United States where protesters have gathered ever since this draft opinion came down late last night. A rare leak from inside the Supreme Court. And today we learned from the chief justice himself that this is authentic and true, which is to say there are the votes as of February to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

On tonight's program we are going to cover this from all angles with legal experts, advocates and some of the protesters that we've been hearing from right here at the court. All of this started with the big leak when the news broke last night.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Just breaking in the last few minutes is this. United States Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Politico dropped a bombshell on the U.S. legal and political system with an unprecedented leak.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST, ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS: Chief Justice John Roberts confirming in the last hour the leak of a bombshell draft opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The withering takedown of the Roe vs. Wade precedent.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the codification of Roe makes a lot of sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cities coast to coast now bracing for mass protests this afternoon as the biggest ever breach in Supreme Court history.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Roe cannot go. Roe cannot go. Keep abortion legal. Keep abortion legal.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We will vote to protect a woman's right to choose, and every American is going to see which side every senator stands on.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Whoever did this leak should be prosecuted and should go to jail for a very long time.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I am here because I am angry, and I am here because the United States Congress can change all of this.


MELBER: Today is a seismic day in American history as we witness the fallout rippling across the nation. We join you here broadcasting live from the Supreme Court. Hundreds of protesters continue to gather. We can see and hear them right now.

Many protesting what is now this looming decision. We'll hear directly from some of those protesters who have been gathering here since the news broke last night, as well as lawmakers, women's rights activists, legal experts and former Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards joins us in a few moments.

But our coverage begins right now with Caroline Frederickson, who served as the top lawyer for NARAL Pro-Choice America and a former leader of the American Constitution Society, as well as one of our analysts on politics and policy, all of that at play at here, Democratic strategist Juanita Tolliver.

Thanks to both of you for joining us here at the court. What does this draft decision mean to you, Juanita?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, Ari, I want to start by just reminding all of your viewers that abortion is still legal. It's still legal if you want and need that service and access to basic health care today. But it felt like a double gut punch. Look, I'm a black woman in this country, and so I felt as though one of my basic rights, one of our basic rights was being immediately taken away.

It's something that -- I mean, it's just deeply personal because within one generation, we're going to see the rights to access and abortion given and then taken back, and I can't shake the fact that Justice Sotomayor let us know that this was the direction the court was headed when they ruled to allow SB-8 to go into effect when she said the justices were essentially digging their heads in the sand.

They were ignoring decades and decades of precedent, and honestly at this point I think we're all right to question the legitimacy of the court for doing that, for ignoring decade of precedent.

MELBER: Caroline, you have extensive experience in this area. What did you feel when you first saw and read this draft opinion, and what should people take from it today?

CAROLINE FREDERICKSON, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL AND LEGAL DIRECTOR, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: Well, I'd say, I was -- it was shocking but I wasn't shocked because I actually don't think they had their heads in the sand on precedent. What they actually were doing was very aggressively overturning it in a way that we haven't seen, so specific about the Roe vs. Wade faulty reasoning, they said.

Fifty years have gone by. This has been a precedent that has affected and regulated the lives of so many women and men in the United States, has created an ability for women to enter the work force in new ways, to have a better standard of living, and they want to overturn all of that. And it's true that we have not yet seen abortion made illegal across the country, but when this decision comes out, there are many states that have laws that are going to go into effect that are going to end abortion for so many women in the United States.

MELBER: As you say, the way this is written, it does that. They know it does that. Both of our panelists here are going to stay. And I want to turn and just do a little quick breakdown of what's actually in here. If you follow the news, you probably heard about this last night.


We're keeping an eye on all the reaction and protesters that you can hear gathered here at the court. But what is in these 67 pages? Well, it's a long ruling. I want to give you three takeaways right now.

First, the decision takes a sledgehammer to about 50 years of precedent, overruling Roe vs. Wade and all later cases based on that landmark ruling that recognized a woman's right to choose. Justice Alito's draft overrules Roe and declares that it's always been so egregiously wrong from the start. The draft shows that a majority of the current court supported this ruling, ending Roe entirely as of February.

Second, while nearly everyone sees this draft as an attack on abortion rights, people know that, I want to you understand that Justice Alito in this still private draft, until it leaked last night, claims the court would actually do this and still be neutral on the issue, that overturning Roe would not mean the justices are not critical of abortion itself.

That may sound about absurd, but he writes that while some believe that, quote, "abortion kills a human being," because prenatal life must have human rights, the court's decision to allow abortion bans for that reason is, quote, "not based on any view of whether a fetus should be treated as a human life." If that sounds illogical like they're trying to have it both ways, that's because they are.

And third and finally, before I bring become our experts, what we were just discussing, what will this ruling do? Well, it will legally begin automatic new abortion bans in at least 13 states where there are already rules that trigger those kind of bans in the event that the Supreme Court ends Roe, which this draft opinion does.

Does that impact you in your state? We have more details on that later in our broadcast tonight. When will this begin? Well, we know the court usually releases all of its rulings by late June, in a term, sometimes early July. So the final ruling will be out in weeks.

The wording may change from this draft, but there's been no public signal that any of the five votes willing to end Roe in February of this year after 49 years on the books will reverse themselves in this matter of months.

That's our legal breakdown of three takeaways. I bring the panel back in.

Caroline, your ability to expound on any of those points including what many people want to know who don't follow the news necessarily every day because they're busy trying to work and live, how will this affect them?

FREDERICKSON: Well, you know, I think despite Justice Alito's attempt to distinguish other areas of the law that won't be affected, gay rights, for example, access to contraception, what he does in this decision is he undermines the foundations of those decisions as well. They're based on the same legal reasoning as well as a host of other decisions affecting personal family life, parents and their children.

And I think we really have to have an understanding of what this means for our society, the potential for radical changes, for a real constriction of people's fundamental rights. And you know, so, you know, what he does in here, which is so misleading, is he tries to say, this is really only about abortion, but you know, the law just doesn't work that way. We work in a system where there is legal reasoning that is applied from precedent to precedent, and once you strike down the foundational argument underpinning any one of those decisions you strike them all down essentially.

MELBER: Let's build on that point, Caroline, because you've worked in this area for so long. And I always mention the full disclosure, you were my boss in the Senate many years ago. So I have to get that in for journalism. But you've advocated on these issues. When Justice Alito writes here that they can do this, end Roe but your right to privacy stays, your right to contraception stays, your right to intimate sexual contact because only relatively recently that the court said, for example, sodomy laws were tossed.

There are states that try to regulate and criminally sanction whether someone had intimate sexual relations with someone of the same gender, for example. When Justice Alito says you'll lose this but keep all of that, your response is what?

FREDERICKSON: Yes, it's -- can I say BS?


FREDERICKSON: Right? Exactly.

TOLLIVER: Yes, it is.

FREDERICKSON: It's flimflam, it's specious, it's ridiculous. I mean, just like he says that this case is the Brown versus the Board of Education. This is actually the Plessy. This case is the Plessy for women.

MELBER: You're talking about the distinction between the case that established equality versus the original case that tried to say separate but equal?

FREDERICKSON: Exactly, because that case is the one in which that court said the states have the right to deny rights to people of color. In this one, Alito was saying the states have the right to deny fundamental freedoms and rights to women. Those are the two cases that should be equated, not Brown in this decision.

MELBER: Juanita, I'm curious your reaction because, as Caroline mentions, and again, this can evolve a little, but this is the blueprint that five agreed to in February.


And Justice Alito got the assignment, and he wrote it, and he claims in here that doing this to women in America would be like their Brown v. Board. That it would be that kind of decision. Your reaction?

TOLLIVER: Look, I wrote for "TheGrio" just last week that the Republicans and evangelical right will be waiting for the green light from the Supreme Court to do full complete bans. And I feel like this draft opinion is that green light. This is what they have been waiting for. This is honestly what they've been building up for decades, with the coordinated effort to get Federalist Society-approved justices on the bench, with the buildup and the attacks that we've seen across the country on Republican controlled state houses.

Those Republican built up a full slate, a full buffet of bans to choose from. And now they've got the green light. But the other thing from this opinion, this draft that struck me was that Alito said it wasn't rooted in the history and traditions of this country. And for that matter, I say neither is my freedom.


TOLLIVER: Neither is birth control. Neither is my basic right to vote. And so the vice president and the president both made clear in their statements today that this is not confined to Roe. This is going to come to all of the other things that you just mentioned, Caroline. And Vice President Harris emphasized that it is an attack on privacy for all of us. So this isn't just a women's issue, this is about privacy of every person in this country.

MELBER: Yes. And all really important points. Justice Alito also tries to make the argument that the original Roe decision took something out of the public debate and made it somehow worse, made it more controversial.

We've covered this including last night how a vast majority of Americans, even in our divisive time actually, don't think that the way to resolve this is to have abortion bans under the law again or to go back into this. About 60 percent depending on the poll. Having said that, it's certainly true that there's widespread debate on this issue. Americans know that.

We, in our reporting today just within the last few hours, heard from many of the people who came here to the steps of the Supreme Court where we've seen different people speak, activists, citizens, Senator Elizabeth Warren speaking here this evening. I want to play a little bit of what we heard from both sides here today, and our guests will respond on the other side. Let's take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's every human's right to choose what happens to their body, and so we're here and hoping to continue to protect my rights and protect the future of the rights for my daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is good news. You know, something the responsibility of abortion laws back to the states is a really good thing.

MELBER: When did you hear about the draft?


MELBER: And what did you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I burst into tears. I was devastated. I have been expecting this. I mean, the handwriting has been on the wall. I got pregnant during medical school. If I hadn't had an abortion I would not have been able to continue medical school, and go on and have the career that I had.

MELBER: And so if this ruling comes down, how do you think it will affect the next generation of women?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a disaster. I think it's a disaster.

MELBER: And what are you saying there with your sign?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't kill humans. We believe that all forms of murder, including abortion, are immoral and we actively work to stop them in our country. I am excited for the prospect of an abortion-free America. I believe fundamentally that abortion ends a human life. I believe that it's not something to be undertaken lightly. And that it should be -- it should be an option reserved specifically for medical necessity.


MELBER: Caroline?

FREDERICKSON: Well, you know, I think we hear how, you know, abortion is a controversial issue in America, but the vast majority of people believe it should be legal in all or most circumstances. And what Justice Alito and the other justices have done is take an issue, that was certainly debated in the public arena and basically set it on fire. And we have a conflagration now that is going to rage across the country, and we'll see where that takes us. But women and men across America are not going to let their privacy be taken away from them. This is not going to end here.

MELBER: Caroline Frederickson, Juanita Tolliver, I want to thank you both on these difficult issues here on this day at the court leading off our special coverage. I appreciate it.

FREDERICKSON: Thank you very much.

TOLLIVER: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate it. We have our shortest break of the hour, 60 seconds. We're going to continue our special coverage. Cecile Richards is here and a lawmaker who chose to share her personal story of making a choice, Congresswoman Cori Bush joins us on both the racial and economic fallout, how this affects families and people around the nation.

We'll continue to track the protests not only in Washington where we're reporting live, but around the nation on what is now a historic and emotional day for so many. We'll be back in one minute.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're very disappointed with what happened last night. I'm actually getting emotional about it. I really want my children to be able to have that security and that right.


MELBER: It's one of the people we heard from gathered today, echoing how many people are concerned about what this draft ruling will do.

Here are the facts. 13 states have trigger laws on the books. These are measures that mean that immediately or almost immediately abortion bans go into automatic effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe as this draft opinion does. In other words, no new vote, no consideration. It just happens.

About nine other states have other types of restrictions on the books. Their state constitution which bar lawmakers from basically protecting abortion rights to bans that go all the way back to six or eight weeks. Those are currently blocked by Roe, so if you pull Roe out, well, many of those come back into place.

Then there are other places in America where this decision if handed down would not, based on what we know, change people's access to abortion. There are 16 states in D.C. that have laws on the books that protect abortion rights, and unless the current leadership changed, that access would continue.

I mentioned at the top of our broadcast some of the experts we're going the hear from. We turn now to one of them, Cecile Richards, who was president of Planned Parenthood and co-chair now of American Bridge.

Welcome back to the program. As someone who has led these fights and also warned about an opinion like this, what is your reaction to the draft?

CECILE RICHARDS, FORMER PLANNED PARENTHOOD PRESIDENT: I mean, this is -- it's devastating. And for anyone who says, oh, well, this is what was expected, I don't think anyone could have imagined this kind of opinion this day and time. As you've said, this is a right that people have had in America for almost 50 years, and look at those young people that you're interviewing, Ari, on the steps of the Capitol.

I think of my three kids. Everyone is I'm sure thinking of the young people in their lives. This is a right that they assumed that they had. Now we have five justices on the Supreme Court, three of them put on there by Donald Trump, who pledged to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and now in a completely political move they are seemed to be poised to end this right to safe and legal abortion.

It is going to be devastating for generations of people. It is incalculable how much harm is going to be done, as I'm sure you've been covering and Juanita and others talk about, it is going to fall hardest on the people who already have the least access to health care, folks with low income, young people, black and brown women, people who live in the southern part of the United States. It is cruel. It is inhumane and this all lies at the feet of the Republican Party.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned several features there. The justice, they got on the court from Republican presidents. Two of which you mentioned who had minority support, Bush in his first term and of course Donald Trump recently got fewer votes, but these are mostly those justices making this decision according to the count of five we have. And that brings us to that confirmation process.

Americans have watched this. We watched one recently but this is some of what we know now about what was said against what is in this opinion, as I've emphasized what Justice Alito now says to be clear. What he writes was always, he says, and what others would join always the wrong decision, which calls into question some of what they asserted under oath if the word always has any meaning at all. Take a look.


CLARENCE THOMAS, THEN SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Do I have this day an opinion, a personal opinion, on the outcome in Roe vs. Wade, and my answer to you is that I do not.

SAMUEL ALITO, THEN SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Roe vs. Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court.

NEIL GORSUCH, THEN SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: A good judge will consider as precedent worthy as treatment of precedent like any other.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, THEN SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: It has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years.


AMY CONEY BARRETT, THEN SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Roe is not a super precedent because calls for its overruling have never ceased but that doesn't mean that Roe should be overruled.


MELBER: Cecile?

RICHARDS: Well, as you know you were just talking to Caroline and Juanita, look, anyone who doesn't think that every single right we have is at risk under this Supreme Court, so partisan, so political, so intent on putting their own personal sort of point of view on the backs of every American, that is what we're looking at here.

And a couple of things that just strike me, Ari, from the coverage. One is, you know, Justice Alito says this has been a contentious issue, although we all know you could look at any poll in America, the overwhelming majority of people believe that, not only that abortion should be safe and legal, but I think most importantly the decisions about pregnancy, they just shouldn't be made by government and politicians.

They should be made by women and people who are pregnant who are in the best position to understand that. But the hubris of Justice Alito saying that someone he is going to now himself solve this problem of a contentious issue by taking away the right of every single person in America to safe and legal abortion is absolutely incredible.

And as you mentioned in your last comment, it's important to know that we - - this is the tip of the iceberg. You know, right, we are just at the beginning here because if the Republican Party is able to take control of Congress this fall, HB-1, I'm going to put money on it right here. House Bill 1 will be an abortion ban that will cover the whole United States of America.

MELBER: You would expect them to do that and then, you know, would say, under your reading of this and you're one of the experts, if this ruling comes down, Congress would have that authority?

RICHARDS: That is my -- that's my position. And again, anything that Justice Alito is now saying is not part, I just don't -- I don't believe him, right? I don't believe him. This is a real -- and this is an opportunity, Ari, for obviously the Democrats have been so strong, Senator Warren today, you know, the president's statements. The Democrats have been very strong on this. We now need Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski to join with the Senate Democrats and pass the legalization of abortion in America.

It's the right thing to do. It's what -- because none of this has come because of the American people's desire to end safe and legal abortion. It's strictly because of Republican Party politics. And last thing, I was thinking of the young woman you interviewed earlier. I think the belief that somehow abortion will end if you make it illegal is just completely false.

As we all know, abortion existed before Roe. The difference was that young, healthy women routinely died in emergency rooms all across our country. Planned Parenthood doctors tell, you know, they could tell you the stories of what it was like before Roe. We cannot go back to those days.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned going back, and that brings us to some of the history here which people who've grown up in this recent era may not realize what it was like. There was a time of state sanctioned segregation in America. There's a time of this kind of safe sanction laws against women.

I want to play just some of what we have here on this historic day where we're seeing people, I think viewers can probably hear some of the people who've gathered tonight in front of the court. This is some of how it sounded when this original Roe decision came down and the historic nature of that back in the day. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a landmark ruling the Supreme Court today legalized abortions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And ruled the government has not right to enter into a decision which should be made by the mother and her doctor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today's decision came as a shock to both anti and pro- abortionist forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thus the anti-abortion laws of 46 states were rendered unconstitutional.

DR. ALAN GUTTMACHER, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: January 22nd, 1973 will stand out as one of the great days for freedom and free choice.


MELBER: There was a widespread belief particularly as the court reaffirmed it in 1992 that that was a baseline. Can you think of any other major fundamental human right recognized by the Supreme Court that would be rolled back like this? Certainly we have many racial controversies in this country but there aren't decisions like that in the civil rights arena regarding race that would go back this far. Can you think of anything else and what does that tell you about the landscape for women and women's right in next generation?

RICHARDS: Look, I think the -- yes, this has been said on many shows that no one knows of a constitutional right that has literally been ended, removed, and not only ended, but ended by five justices, not by the American people.


This is the worst kind of government by, you know, extreme minority rule. And one of the things that I feel like hasn't really been talked about so much, Ari, is that when women got access to safe and legal abortion, it changed everything about women's lives in America. I mean, there have been so many studies done. It allowed women to finish school. It allowed women to have children as many women have now said in your interviews, when they were ready.

It allowed women to join the workforce, make a living, be able to support their family and reduce child poverty. I mean, there are just so many important outcomes, and women and men are very aware of that. And that is why in fact I think you are seeing this outpouring of outrage. That the Supreme Court would take it upon themselves to take away a right that we have had for 50 years.

And that the Republican Party, you know, you look at state after state across this country, you know, all these states that are passing abortion bans that are now trying to, you know, they're putting young women in jail. These are states that are led by the Republican Party. So it is critical this November that we vote and that we vote in people who protect and support women's rights.

MELBER: Cecile Richards, thank you for joining us tonight on this momentous day with this rarely coming out of the Supreme Court. Appreciate your time.

RICHARDS: Thank you.

MELBER: When we come back, I want to go -- thank you -- the Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush who testified about her own personal story will be our special guest and we go back inside the protest with the backlash growing across America tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supporting my daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to pass federal legislation that protects reproductive rights.





MELBER: What does this mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, so I believe that abortion is essential healthcare and if they take away our right to abortion, they're going to turn progressive measures like clothing hangers, and other dangerous approaches into our essential healthcare.

RENEE BRACEY SHERMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WE TESTIFY: My name is Renee Bracey Sherman and you know what? I had an abortion and I am not afraid. To all of you who've had abortions. I see you. I see all of you.


MELBER: We just heard from some of the protesters gathered today including my next guest, Renee Bracey Sherman, founder and executive director of We Testify. Thanks for being here.

SHERMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

MELBER: Absolutely. As our viewers know, we've been covering this live. We're here outside the Supreme Court, we can see the protests have only swelled in size. Hundreds more people now than we saw earlier today. What are you saying here to the activists and others who are concerned?

SHERMAN: I mean, I think this is the moment where we all need to speak up, we need to be sharing our abortion story. This is the moment the Supreme Court has told us that they are going to do what we have feared. They are going to do for a decade, they are going to overturn Roe v. Wade. The right to abortion that I hold here, reason I had an abortion, making sure that I could have my life the way I needed.

They are going to take that from all of us. And so, we are out here making sure that our voices are heard. Something else I said to the crowd is where's Joe Biden? All of us are here. We are sharing our abortion stories. We're speaking out. But the president is not here. And we need him here with us, with the people we need him to lead.

MELBER: Let's dig into that. The president spoke out today in public about this. They call it a radical ruling. Vice President Harris speaking out. But your view is that they're not doing enough or they should do what more specifically?

SHERMAN: That's what I actually started a website, And it has taken him over 460 days to even use the word abortion. He used it once today. That is not enough. If he is considering himself approaches president, if he is going to say that he's going to lead us he needs to show up. He needs to be with the people. He needs to have the backs of people who are trying to get abortions right now. We need to hear from him.

He needs to meet with all of us who have abortions. And he needs to show us a real plan of what he is going to do and asking us to vote in November. That didn't work the first time because they haven't shown up for us now. They need to show up for us again, we need them to show up for us before we show up and show out in November.

MELBER: Let me ask you about that. Because everyone's looking at both what would happen in other states or in the Congress, depending on who controls the government, state or federal given that this decision if it comes down, opens the door to way more restrictions. We've been covering this throughout. There's a bit of an age gap on some of these issues sometimes.

There's obviously a geographic and ideology gap, but also an age gap. What do you think that young people need to understand about the threat here? Do you think that there is any kind of generation gap for people who may have grown up and not understood or been too busy working and living to know that this day could come?

SHERMAN: I actually don't think there's a generation gap. If you look at who's out here, young people are here, older folks are here. We're all out here.

MELBER: May I briefly press back on you. You're right about who's out here. But now when it comes to voter turnout in every election cycle.

SHERMAN: And that's actually who they're suppressing the votes of. It is all connected they are support -- suppressing the votes of black and brown people, of young people. We cannot talk about these issues in silence. We cannot -- we're not arguing just about the right to an abortion, but to write to make sure that police aren't beating us in the street. To make sure that we have a living wage, that we don't have student debt. All of these things are connected and we are angry. That is why we're speaking out. That is also why we cannot start abortions. If when and how we decide. We need abortion access. We need Joe Biden to show up.


MELBER: With the 30 seconds we have left. For someone who is tuning into the news now, who maybe wasn't last week. What do you say to them about what they can do?

SHERMAN: You lost someone who's had an abortion, you do. We need you to show up and show out, donate to your local abortion fund, donate to your local independent clinic. And if you've had an abortion, I love you. Share your story. Your story deserves to be heard.

MELBER: Renee, I want to thank you for joining us. You can hear there's a lot of energy here. Our special coverage continues. We are here live in front of the Supreme Court on this historic day with a lot of pushback from the crowd and from a lot of people concerned about what's happening in America. Congresswoman Cori Bush joins me next. We will be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that we need to hit the streets. We can't lay down in this place. We can't do that.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never thought I would have an abortion. But I have had an abortion. And if I hadn't had an abortion over 10 years ago, I wouldn't be with the husband that I have today. I wouldn't have the daughter that I have today, my life would be completely different.


MELBER: To some of the real-world stories we've heard here today, that's brand new. We're right outside the court. Emotions running high as people gather here. Many sharing personal stories about their experiences. Indeed, it was just earlier this year, when some were warning about exactly this kind of draft ruling coming down and several Democratic lawmakers publicly testified about why they had personally made the decision to have an abortion and why they feared the end of Roe.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I consulted with my doctors who told me that any future pregnancy would likely also be high risk to me and the child. For me terminating my pregnancy was not an easy choice. The most difficult I've made in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was a teenager and had a back-alley abortion in Mexico. I was one of the lucky ones, Madam Chair. A lot of girls and women in my generation didn't make it. They died from unsafe abortions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the summer of 1994. I was raped, I became pregnant, and I chose to have an abortion. At 18 years old I knew it was the right decision for me. It was freeing, knowing I had options.


MELBER: We're joined now by one of those elected officials, Congresswoman Cori bush. Thanks for joining me. Why was it important to you to share what must be a deeply difficult and personal story as this issue plays out. And now, we see this court had as of February, the five votes to support abortion bans outright in the United States.

REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): Because we have to use every tool in our toolbox. You know, I had never -- since that -- since that assault happened. I hadn't thought about it. 20 years, I hadn't thought about it. It was -- It wasn't until I heard about SBA, you know, the Texas -- the Texas abortion ban, and it made me feel like, what do I have to bring to this situation? Like what can I do? If telling my story will help.

You know, somebody will help do something. Let me bring that out. And it was then that I realized like, wow, wait a minute, that was the assault and -- but the other thing being, I had the option to choose what I needed to do in that moment, what was best for me. And that's what -- that's what's being taken away right now.

MELBER: Yes, congresswoman, you relay that and it speaks to something that sometimes does get blown away or obscured in these issues, which is yes, the court talks about rules and laws. And yes, there is a right to privacy. But then there is the way that things actually work in America. And everyone understands from history and the available data that these kinds of bands will overwhelmingly act to deny this choice or opportunity or option. However, chose to people make that choice. Primarily that people with less means, people who face poverty, and disproportionately women of color.

It's something that Justice Ginsburg, whose death actually created the conditions for this to happen. She understood very well and she spoke about. With you in mind, we wanted to get your response to her prescient warning about that, about how this comes down to means, money, and often a race. Take a listen.


RUTH BADER GINSBURG, FORMER ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT: There is no one woman of means in the United States who will not be able to get a safe abortion if she wants one. All of the restrictions that we see in states like Texas operate only against poor one.


MELBER: Congresswoman?

BUSH: You know, I remember I had to -- I had to take an entire check, a two-week check to get my abortion. But I've had the opportunity to do that. We have -- we've been working for years, not just on reproductive health, but reproductive justice. And that's what we're working on right now. We're closer to that because we do -- we understand that there are -- that there are barriers in place and we've been breaking those barriers down knocking down those obstacles. But going back to abortion bans.

We know that abortion bans are systemic discrimination we know it's racism and action and the impact of this decision. You know, whenever is written, whenever it comes it will fall hardest on people who already faced these discriminatory obstacles to health care, particularly black and indigenous other people of color. People with disabilities. We got to talk about our folks with disabilities, people in rural areas, young people, undocumented people, and those that are having difficulty making ends meet.


How do -- how was that voice heard? How was that brought forward? And so that's why I came. That's another reason why I came forth. And I told my story, because if I had to take a two-week check to be able to pay for my abortion, how was I supposed to take care of a child?

MELBER: Congresswoman, thank you again for sharing your story and joining us here on this historic day. I appreciate it.

BUSH: Thank you.

MELBER: We have more coverage, with protests continuing to get the Supreme Court. I'm seeing more people now than I have at any other point today and we have a live report on the frontlines of this fight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought it was disgusting.

MELBER: Yes, and that made you want to come out here? And what do you hope is going to happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that they consider everyone out here and our opinions and our rights and make a decision for the best.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think what they're doing is disgusting.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been at this for over 50 years, saving (INAUDIBLE) I cannot believe that we have to do this all over again. So, if we win our right that's ours, that we had, and how dare they take this away.

MELBER: When did you hear about the draft?


MELBER: And what did you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I burst into tears. I was devastated.


MELBER: Because some of what we've been hearing here at the Supreme Court, protests gathered to try to deal with what could happen in that building. But of course, that's just available to people who happen to be near D.C. We're also seeing gatherings all around the nation. We have more on that in a moment. Plus, we want to play a little bit more of what we just heard from Senator Elizabeth Warren.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): The Republicans have been working toward this day, for decades. They have been out there plotting, carefully cultivating these Supreme Court justices. So, they could have a majority on the bench who would have accomplished something that the majority of Americans do not want. We have a right. Extremists, we've heard enough from the extremists. And --


MELBER: We are still inside, 24 hours since this news broke. Some Americans still learning about it and gathering as they get off work or find the time, which brings us to New York City's Foley Square where NBC's Ellison Barber is reporting live. Ellison?

ELLISON BARBER, CORRESPONDENT, MSNBC: Hey, Ari, if you can walk with me a little, I want to give you a sense of how many people are here. This crowd has continued to grow since people start -- started to first gather here at about 5:00 o'clock. Typically, we're told this square, this area of New York Foley Square can hold about 4000 people. But as you look through here, as you and I kind of weave together through the crowd, you'll see just how many people there are.

Their signs give you a sense of what they are here for, what they have to say. People we have spoken to, they are frustrated, they are angry, they are scared, they are sad. And they came here because they wanted their voices to be heard. Listen to a little bit of what we heard.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole country needs to know that people are going to be suffering and they will die. And it's a tragedy for families and it's a tragedy for women.


BARBER: So, one of the things as we've spoken to people here Ari, they will talk about is the fact that in New York, there are fairly strong protections, access to abortion rights that were solidified back in 2019, with the health reproductive act, but they say that that does not matter. They are here because they believe that this is a healthcare right, that women everywhere, people everywhere should have access to abortion, and they wanted to be out here for a number of reasons.

One, they want to see elected leaders on Capitol Hill do more to stop this, to prevent this from happening. Some people we've spoken to, they've talked about being frustrated, that lawmakers didn't do more to codify Roe v. Wade months, even years ago. They feel in some way some of the people we spoken to that lawmakers have failed them by not doing more until now. They say they will be in the streets. They will be speaking out. And they will take this fight to the streets until this is resolved.

No matter how long it takes. A lot of people we've spoken do they say they don't know exactly where things go from here. But they are determined that organizing coming out like this. Again, just look how many people are here. That this is a way that they can perhaps bring about change. At the very least it is a way they can make sure women in other states that may sue lose the right to access abortion, that they know that they are not alone and that they will be standing with that. Ari?

MELBER: Ellison Barber in New York City. Walk us through what you're hearing there as well as the sheer scale of that. One of the cities that we're seeing larger and larger gatherings tonight. Thank you, Ellison. I want to tell viewers we'll be back with more of our continuing coverage right after this. You're watching MSNBC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means not just overturning 50-plus years of precedent, it means women will be back to where it was before that. They'll be forced to make dangerous decisions every day. That-- and I just -- it's terrible. I'm just a little bit hard to find words.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a NICU nurse so I see what happens with people who have --

MELBER: You say you're a nurse.


MELBER: Neo-natal nurse. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I see them when they're very sick when they're very young. I'm actually getting emotional about it. I really want my children to be able to have that security and that right. And I want them to grow up in a free America that is supportive of them.


MELBER: That's another one of the people we heard from gathered spontaneously here at the Supreme Court today, a nurse discussing these issues. I could tell you that 24 hours ago right now, we didn't know anything about what the Supreme Court would do in this case. Since that time, we've had an extraordinary series of events, the first-ever fully leaked draft of an opinion, this one that would overturn Roe v. Wade and reverse a constitutional right it's been in the books for 50 years. Today the chief justice confirmed this is a real draft within weeks we will see some version of some ruling come out.

We will continue our special coverage here on MSNBC. You've been watching THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER. And "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" begins now with cover of Vice President Kamala Harris speaking at an EMILY's List gala. You're watching MSNBC.