A leaked draft of a majority opinion written by Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito suggests justices are poised to overturn the embattled 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states, the news site Politico reported late Monday.
The high court released a statement on Tuesday morning acknowledging the draft is authentic but “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.” The official opinion was expected to be released in late June. Opinions in cases are sometimes amended before their official release.
If the court overturns Roe, each state would decide how it regulates abortion law, with about half of them prepared to outlaw the procedure in most cases through pending legislation or so-called trigger laws that go into effect if Roe is struck down.
The leak is a stunning breach for the highly secretive nine-member court. Public response seemed as varied as the nation’s views on abortion law are.
“Praise God!” Franklin Graham posted on Facebook. “The Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to Politico. I don’t know if this report is true, but if it is, it’s an answer to many years of prayer.”
“Roe has been wrongly decided since the day it was issued,” pro-life activist Lila Rose of Live Action tweeted. “It’s illogical and gravely unjust. Overruling Roe would be an important step in the right direction of protecting our fundamental right to life. But if this decision is issued, true justice has not yet been achieved. … We will not have true justice until every human being’s right to life is legally protected from the moment of fertilization.
“… Pray for the justices tonight and every night until the decision comes out. I fear there will be unprecedented threats against them.”
Liberty Counsel, a Christian nonprofit legal firm, wrote on Twitter, “Overturning Roe v. Wade will reverberate around the globe. Many nations look to America and what America does as a model for emulation.”
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, was quick to respond after the leaked draft made news.
“Let’s be clear: This is a draft opinion,” the abortion giant tweeted. “It’s outrageous, it’s unprecedented, but it is not final. Abortion is your right—and it is STILL LEGAL.”
Planned Parenthood says it performed 354,871 abortions in the last reporting year of 2019-2020.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. announced on Tuesday he was directing the high court’s marshal to investigate the source of the leaked draft.
“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed,” Roberts wrote in a statement Tuesday. “The work of the Court will not be affected in any way. …
“This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.”
Still, if the draft reflects the official majority opinion, Roe would fall, marking a contentious end to federalized abortion law in an era when technology and science can observe fetal development much earlier and with much greater knowledge.
Alito, with justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett reportedly concurring, wrote that Roe was decided on faulty grounds and should not stand.
Calling the Roe decision “an abuse of authority,” Alito wrote: “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.
“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. ‘The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations, upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another then voting,’” wrote Alito, quoting the late justice Antonin Scalia in the 1992 Casey abortion case. “This is what the Constitution and the rule of law demand.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research organization, 13 states have “trigger laws” that would go into effect to ban abortion in most cases if the court overturns Roe, the most recent one being Oklahoma, which passed such a law in April. Some of those also have bans or near bans on the books that are being blocked in court because of Roe, the Associated Press reported.
Phot: Bonnie Cash/UPI/Newscom