A leaked draft decision, seen by US publication Politico, appears to show that the US Supreme Court has decided to overturn the Roe v Wade decision that has granted constitutional access to abortion across America for the past 50 years.
For months now, the US Supreme court has been debating whether or not the state of Mississippi could ban abortion after 15 weeks. And, as this draft decision dated February 10 2022 appears to show, the judges have come to a majority opinion that the state is justified in its decision, finding the 1973 case that set the precedent here was wrong.
Overturning Roe v Wade would effectively remove federal protections for the provision and access of abortion in America, with states being returned the power to decide if and how they allow access to the medical procedure.
The leaked draft, which is some 98 pages, is written by Justice Samuel Alito, one of the nine Justices on the Supreme Court bench. Decisions made by the court need to be ruled on by a majority, with the four other Republican Judges appearing to vote in agreement with Alito that “Roe and Casey must be overruled.”
“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,” the draft decision reads.
“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”
One historian of abortion argues that abortion stays at pretty much the same rate per capita over time whether it's legal or banned. What changes when you make it illegal is how many women die from it.
— Kathleen Belew (@kathleen_belew) May 3, 2022
While the decision is not final, and will not be made official until it is published (likely in a few months’ time), its impact would be severe. Large parts of the southern and midwest US would almost immediately impose bans on abortions, while others would seek to limit access. In total, 24 states are likely to limit access to reproductive health if the decision does ahead.
Roe v Wade, a legal battle between Norma McCorvey (known by the legal pseudonym ‘Jane Roe’) and Texan District Attorney Henry Wade, went before the Supreme Court nearly 50 years ago. Seven Justices, including five Republicans, agreed that the US Constitution protects a woman’s right to have an abortion without government restriction.
Planned Parenthood v Casey, the second case mentioned in Alito’s statement, was a 1992 Supreme Court case that upheld the Roe decision, affirming the rights of women in the US.
The leak of the decision, if true, would be the most severe in Supreme Court history and represent a major breach of process. The Supreme Court has neither confirmed nor denied the validity of the letter, but many publications are reporting it as likely true, with experts in agreement.
Justices have changed their minds on decisions before, and it’s not impossible they could do so again, however, the current set of majority-Republican Justices have long voiced their desire to overturn the ruling. Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett — who voted with Altio — were all appointed under President Trump.
Republican lawmakers have keenly criticised Roe, with a chorus to overturn the decision growing in recent years. This is in spite of the fact that recent polling has found that less than a third of Americans actually want to see the ruling repealed. In reaction to the news, protests have already begun outside the US Supreme Court.