A leaked document appears to indicate that a majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices planned to support overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade case law that legalized abortion.
Politico claims to have seen the draft “notice” which, if genuine, is, they say, a “categorical repudiation” and “unwavering of the 1973 decision” that guaranteed constitutional protections for the right to abortion.
The post says the court opinion was written by Judge Samuel Alito and circulated inside the court.
He apparently says “Roe was blatantly wrong from the start”.
It is unclear at this stage whether the draft represents the court’s final say on the matter.
the Supreme Court has yet to issue a formal ruling in the case, and opinions — and even judges’ votes — have shifted during the drafting process. The court is expected to rule on the case before its term ends in late June or early July.
The revelation was met with dismay by abortion rights groups.
Planned Parenthood tweeted: “Although abortion is still legal, tonight’s report clearly shows that our deepest fears are coming true.
“We have reached a moment of crisis for access to abortion. We don’t have a moment to lose – we must act now.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said if the ruling stands, it would be “a direct assault on the dignity, rights and lives of women, not to mention decades of established law.”
“It will kill and subjugate women even though a vast majority of Americans think abortion should be legal,” she continued.
“What a total shame.”
In a joint statement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to impose the greatest restriction of rights over the past fifty years – not just to women but to all Americans.
“The votes reported by Republican-appointed judges to overturn Roe v. Wade would be considered an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”
Democratic Senator and activist Bernie Sanders said people must act ‘NOW’ to ‘pass legislation that codifies Roe v Wade as the law of the land’.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren called the Supreme Court “extremist” and said she wanted “to impose her unpopular far-right views on the entire country.”
Politico released what it called a “1st draft” of the “Court Opinion” in a case challenge Mississippi abortion ban after 15 weeksa case known as Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The Supreme Court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority. Justice Alito was appointed by former President George W Bush.
Politico says he signed the draft which stated: “Roe got it horribly wrong from the start.
“We believe that Roe and Casey should be overturned,” he adds, referring to the 1992 Planned Parenthood v Casey case which upheld Roe’s finding of a constitutional right to abortion services – but allowed states to impose certain constraints on the practice.
Analysis by Greg Milam, American correspondent
The US Supreme Court’s decision on abortion is one of the most anticipated and potentially significant in decades of American justice.
This makes the leak of a draft ruling all the more astonishing and will certainly spark a backlash against the court and the states that pushed for the abortion ban.
The content of the leaked opinion, written by conservative judge Samuel Alito, will have surprised no one. The court’s conservative lean these days has led most to expect it to side with those Republican states when it issues its final opinion.
When Donald Trump, as the right of the president’s office, was given the opportunity to appoint three new justices to the court, many commentators saw the writing on the wall. Abortion was an issue that mattered to Trump voters.
But the unprecedented nature of this leak — almost nothing is leaking from the inner workings of the Supreme Court, let alone the draft opinions — will enrage those seeking to protect the right to have an abortion.
If the court, as Alito suggests, strikes down the constitutional right to request an abortion, it will be up to each state to ban or restrict it. The decision would trigger an automatic ban in 13 states and automatically keep it legal in 17 others.
Activists say it poses health risks to women across America, when it’s not possible to travel hundreds of miles to states that allow abortion.
The Biden administration has been outspoken in its condemnation of laws restricting abortion. The White House and America face a test of response.
The leaked report came amid a legislative push to restrict abortion in several Republican-led states – Oklahoma being the most recent – even before the court issued its ruling.
A Supreme Court spokeswoman said the court had no comment.
The leak sparked the intense political debate the High Court’s final decision was expected to have in the midterm election year.
Already, politicians on both sides were seizing it to raise funds and galvanize their supporters on either side of the contentious issue.
An AP-NORC poll in December found that Democrats increasingly view protecting abortion rights as a high priority for government.
Other polls show relatively few Americans want to see Roe knocked down.
In 2020, AP VoteCast found that 69% of voters in the presidential election said the Supreme Court should leave the Roe Wade decision as is; only 29% said the court should overturn the decision.
In general, AP-NORC polls reveal that a majority of the public supports the legality of abortion in most or all cases.
Yet when asked about abortion policy in general, Americans have nuanced attitudes on the issue, and many do not believe that abortion should be possible after the first trimester or that women should be able to obtain a legal abortion for any reason.
Alito said the court could not predict how the public might react and should not try. “We cannot allow our decisions to be affected by outside influences such as concern about public reaction to our work,” Alito wrote in the draft notice, according to Politico.
So far, the Court has allowed states to regulate but not ban abortion before the point of viability, around 24 weeks.
The court’s three liberal justices likely seemed to disagree.
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