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News brief: Leaked draft opinion, 2 state primaries, South Asia heatwave

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to strike down Roe v. Wade, the precedent that has guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion for 50 years.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We know this because Politico got their hands on a leaked draft opinion written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito. It shows that a majority of the justices believe Roe should be overturned. Hundreds of abortion rights supporters demonstrated in front of the Supreme Court last night.

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Abortion is health care. Abortion is health care. Abortion is health care.

MARTINEZ: NPR's Sarah McCammon covers reproductive rights. Sarah, what do we know about this document and what it means?

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Well, first, I want to be clear that NPR has not independently obtained this document, which is labeled as a first draft. But court watchers say it does appear to be genuine. I talked to Amy Howe, the co-founder of SCOTUSblog, which covers the Supreme Court. She sees no reason to doubt its authenticity. And she says a leak like this is highly unusual.

AMY HOWE: I think the justices are going to regard this as an enormous breach. To have this kind of leak not only of the results but the opinion itself, you know, really is extraordinary.

MCCAMMON: And that opinion, if the court ultimately issues something similar to it, describes Roe as, quote, "egregiously wrong from the start" and says there is no constitutional right to an abortion, so it would allow states to severely restrict abortion, as many have been preparing to do.

MARTINEZ: All right, so there's a lot to react to. What have you seen and heard so far?

MCCAMMON: Well, because this is a leaked draft, groups on both sides are being a bit cautious about what they say right now, but the news is certainly reverberating across the spectrum. Steve Aden is with Americans United for Life, which has sought to ban abortion in state legislatures nationwide. He's liking what he's seen so far.

STEVE ADEN: It means simply that state lawmakers have to get to work to enact strong state laws and a policy to protect life across the country.

MCCAMMON: And, A, some abortion rights opponents are expressing concern about why this leak happened, what might have motivated someone to do it. But of course, we don't know that. We don't know the source or their reasons. And from abortion rights advocates, there's a lot of anger and sadness about what they fear will be the court's decision. And, you know, this comes after months and years, really, of warning against exactly such a potential turn of events. The Women's March, for example, is calling for nationwide protests this evening in response.

MARTINEZ: Are these abortion rights groups at all hopeful that when the Supreme Court has its final opinion that it'll be different?

MCCAMMON: You know, I'm not hearing a lot of that kind of optimism. Reproductive rights groups are reminding people that, at least for now, abortion is still legal across the U.S., at least officially, and they're watching to see what the official opinion will say. Now, this is in line with what a lot of people have predicted, that this conservative court with three justices chosen by former President Trump would do. I spoke to Michelle Colon of reproductive rights advocate with SHERo Mississippi, which is where this case originates from. She says access to the procedure is now seriously threatened.

MICHELLE COLON: It's the reality - you know what I'm saying? - which we've been preparing for. We're not surprised. This will open up a floodgate to many, many of the other standing, you know, laws that have been argued and won at the Supreme Court in regards to freedoms for Americans.

MCCAMMON: She says this will hit lower-income people especially hard but that activists will try to help patients get abortions, whether through travel or, in some cases, abortion pills.

MARTINEZ: And Sarah, assuming these reports are correct, what happens next?

MCCAMMON: Well, according to some estimates, more than half of states are poised to ban most or all abortions. And this will be a campaign issue. Groups are preparing to make this an opportunity to catalyze voters in the midterms.

MARTINEZ: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thanks a lot, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Thank you.

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MARTINEZ: The Supreme Court news may end up influencing voters ahead of the November midterms.

MARTIN: Thirteen states are holding primaries this month, and voters in Ohio and Indiana head to the polls today for primaries. Key congressional races are up for grabs. How much weight do former President Trump's endorsements carry in those states?

MARTINEZ: NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro is watching all of it. So first off, how might this Supreme Court news that we just heard about play into voter turnout this year?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Well, it really has the potential to be an earthquake in this election. I mean, we're likely to see mass protests from women and men who are in favor of abortion rights. It could fire them up to vote in a year when Democrats are facing enormous headwinds. This is also going to raise the pressure on Democratic congressional leaders to get rid of the filibuster and pass legislation that codifies abortion rights in this country. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer released a statement last night saying the conservative justices have lied to the American people because, during their confirmation hearings, they repeatedly said that Roe v. Wade is precedent and the law of the land. Republicans, by the way, have used the culture war issues to fire up their base. No issue is more central to that than abortion. But our latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll - it's worth pointing out - found that Democrats had an 11-point advantage on the question of which party Americans think is better at dealing with abortion as an issue. And an ABC News poll out this week also had similar numbers. So not an outlier there.

MARTINEZ: All right, now to Ohio. What's going on with the key Senate races there?

MONTANARO: Yeah, there's a race to replace Republican Senator Rob Portman, who's retiring. Trump has endorsed J.D. Vance over several others who are trying hard for Trump's endorsement. Vance wrote the book "Hillbilly Elegy." But it was a surprise that Trump did this because Vance had been hotly critical of Trump before he became president. Vance has gotten a bump in the polls. But there are lots of undecided voters. Trump's endorsement did not, by the way, go down exactly well with his base. Before it, the top contenders were seen as state treasurer Josh Mandel and investment banker Mike Gibbons. It's been a pretty nasty fight, with Mandel and Gibbons nearly getting into a fistfight, literally, at a debate not that long ago.

MARTINEZ: I saw that. I saw that.

MONTANARO: (Laughter).

MARTINEZ: What about - yeah, it was wild. What about the Democrats, then? Do they have a shot in this race?

MONTANARO: Well, Ohio's a bit of a longer shot for Democrats than some other places, but they hope that this GOP tension can potentially open up a path for their likely nominee, Congressman Tim Ryan. He's got a pretty centrist profile in Washington. And remember - Ohio used to be a swing state, but that's just not the case anymore. It's trended more Republican, and it is a sign of just where the politics are in this state. When Ryan was asked if he wanted Biden to campaign with him, President Biden to campaign with him, he said that he's running his own race.

MARTINEZ: All right. Now, we mentioned Donald Trump's endorsements. Where else are you watching where his backing might matter?

MONTANARO: Well, this month, some pretty key races. We're looking at Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where there are some key Senate races. In Georgia, which is a hotbed of political activity, there's a governor's race and secretary of state race, and there, Trump has endorsed challengers to Republican incumbents, and those challengers have all backed his election lies and attempts to overturn the presidential election there. So lots to watch in the coming month, and it's really going to be a critical month as we kick off these primary elections.

MARTINEZ: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thanks.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

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MARTINEZ: Turning now to South Asia, where more than a billion people could face heat-related health problems due to scorching temperatures.

MARTIN: The brutal heat wave is what scientists have been predicting for countries that are on the front lines of climate change. April and March were both the hottest in more than a century in India. Some schools have closed early for the summer. Hospitals are on watch for heatstroke.

MARTINEZ: Joining us now from sweltering Mumbai is NPR's Lauren Frayer. Lauren, what are people doing to try their best to cope with the hot and humid temperatures in Mumbai?

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Well, I've got my ceiling fan on, which you can probably hear behind me.

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

FRAYER: Thanks for allowing me to keep that on here. The line at my local ice cream parlor was 40 minutes long the other night, if that's any indication. People are trying to hydrate. They're trying to stay indoors if they can. Only a tiny fraction of Indians have air conditioning, though. Instead, people soak rags in water and hang them from doors and windows. Two-thirds of Indians live in rural areas. Many of those folks work out in farm fields or in construction, so literally out in the sun, in the elements all day.

MARTINEZ: I saw 120 over the weekend. I mean, are these extreme temperatures pushing the limits of what folks can survive?

FRAYER: Absolutely. And this is not just some threat for the future. This is what's happening right now. At least 25 people died of heatstroke in my state of Maharashtra this year. I talked to Ulka Kelkar. She's an economist and climate change expert. She describes what we're experiencing in humid cities like Mumbai, where I live.

ULKA KELKAR: Heat plus humidity. At some stage, it becomes almost impossible for the human body's organs to function normally. Basically, the body just cannot cool itself.

FRAYER: So the temperature here in Mumbai is only - only - in the 90s today, but the humidity makes it just as dangerous as those 120 degrees that we're seeing in the deserts of northwest India or in southern Pakistan right now.

MARTINEZ: Now, you mentioned your ceiling fan that we can hear in the background there.

FRAYER: Yeah.

MARTINEZ: And I can assume that air conditioners, as much as possible, are being used. How much is this heat pushing up this demand for electricity?

FRAYER: So there are rolling blackouts across several Indian states right now, and that's hurting industrial input - output, rather. The government is canceling passenger trains, converting them to cargo for coal. Seventy percent of India's electricity comes from coal. So in the short term, India has no choice but to burn more coal during this heat wave. Of course, doing that exacerbates the warming, which is exactly what we're trying to avoid by running all these fans and AC. So it's a vicious circle. And scientists say we're going to reach a breaking point pretty soon.

MARTINEZ: So these rolling blackouts, these hot temperatures, I mean, are they a sign of things to come with climate change all over the world?

FRAYER: Totally. And like I said, it's already happening. I mean, we've covered - you guys have covered people fleeing California because of wildfires. Well, that's happening on a much bigger scale in South Asia. We've got rising sea levels, extreme heat, erratic weather. It impacts the food supply. I mean, what happens when a harvest fails and India has 1.4 billion people to feed? This heat wave right now has hit in the middle of the wheat harvest. The grain is coming out all shriveled. And India was actually hoping to boost grain exports this year to make up the shortfall from the war in Ukraine, and that looks like it might not happen now.

MARTINEZ: NPR's Lauren Frayer. Thanks a lot.

FRAYER: You're welcome. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.