Leaked draft opinion appears to show the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade

Supreme Court
The US Supreme Court building at sunset on December 2.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • A draft opinion obtained by Politico suggests the Supreme Court plans an abortion-rights reversal.

  • The draft, attributed to Justice Samuel Alito, calls Roe v. Wade "egregiously wrong from the start."

  • The leak is unprecedented. The Supreme Court is expected to release its decision by the end of June.

A leaked draft opinion obtained by Politico appears to show that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark US ruling that granted women the constitutional right to an abortion nearly 50 years ago.

Politico on Monday evening reported on a 98-page initial draft majority opinion, purportedly authored by Justice Samuel Alito, which says that Roe was "egregiously wrong from the start."

"We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled," the draft opinion says, labeled as the "Opinion of the Court," per Politico.

"It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives," it continues.

Insider couldn't immediately confirm whether it was an authentic draft written by Alito. A Supreme Court representative didn't immediately return a request for comment from Insider on Monday night.

According to Politico, Alito was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, forming a majority preliminary vote. Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan are said to be writing one or more dissents. It's unclear whether Chief Justice John Roberts will join an opinion or write his own, per Politico.

The leak is not the final language of the ruling nor the final vote. The actual decision from the court on this major abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, is expected to be handed down by the end of June.

The case concerns a Mississippi law seeking to ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, challenging what's commonly referred to as the viability standard set in Roe, which is that states cannot prohibit the procedure before roughly 24 weeks.

The case is the biggest challenge to abortion rights in 30 years. Mississippi has directly asked the Supreme Court to overrule Roe as well as another major 1992 abortion decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which established that states couldn't impose an "undue burden" on abortion rights.

The nine justices heard arguments for the monumental case in December, when the court's conservative justices seemed willing to erode abortion rights.

"On the other side, the fetus has an interest in having a life," Alito said during arguments about the viability mark. "That doesn't change, does it, from the point before viability to the point after viability?"

Following arguments, the court traditionally holds an initial vote on the case, and then a justice in the majority is tasked to write the draft opinion. Should the reported Alito draft opinion become the final decision, the court would side with Mississippi.

"Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences," Alito wrote of Roe, per Politico. "And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division."

Monday's leak is unprecedented in modern history. A draft opinion has never been released before a final decision. Politico reported that it obtained the draft opinion from a person familiar with the court's proceedings in the case.

"Very unusual. I can't think of another time in recent history that this has happened," I. Glenn Cohen, a professor at Harvard Law School who has closely followed the abortion case, told Insider on Monday evening.

"It's a draft opinion, so anything could happen," Cohen said, adding that Alito, a conservative, had been "signaling this for a long time that this is the direction he would go in."

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