A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 case that legalised abortion nationwide, according to a Politico report released Monday.
A decision to overrule Roe v. Wade could lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states and could have huge ramifications for this year’s elections. But it’s unclear if the draft represents the court’s final word on the matter — opinions often change in ways big and small in the drafting process.
Rival groups of protesters have begun taking to the streets since the news broke, some staging a demonstration outside the Supreme Court.
Whatever the outcome, the Politico report represents an extremely rare breach of the court’s secretive deliberation process, and on a case of surpassing importance.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” the draft opinion states. It was signed by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority who was appointed by former President George W. Bush.
The court is expected to rule on the case before its term ends in late June or early July.
The draft opinion in effect states there is no constitutional right to abortion services and would allow individual states to more heavily regulate or outright ban the procedure.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” it states, referencing the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey that affirmed Roe’s finding of a constitutional right to abortion services but allowed states to place some constraints on the practice. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
A Supreme Court spokeswoman said the court had no comment and The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the draft Politico posted, which dates from February.
The report comes amid a legislative push to restrict abortion in several Republican-led states — Oklahoma being the most recent — even before the court issues its decision. Critics of those measures have said low-income women will disproportionately bear the burden of the new restrictions.
The leak jumpstarted the intense political reverberations that the high court’s ultimate decision was expected to have in the midterm election year.