On Monday, Politico published a leak of the Supreme Court’s initial draft majority opinion — written by Justice Samuel Alito — that shows the plan of overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion ruling that has stood for 49 years.
Should the Supreme Court go ahead with their ruling, it could lead to abortion bans in more than half of all states and have massive impacts on this year’s midterm elections.
The decision isn’t set in stone. Politico noted justice deliberations on major issues like Roe V. Wade have been fluid in the past, and that opinions can change during the drafting stage. The court’s ruling will not be final until it’s published sometime within the next two months.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito stated in the draft. “It’s 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 [Planned Parenthood v. Casey] have enflamed debate and deepened division.”
The draft leak, which is comprised of 98 pages and dated to February, is an unprecedented situation, as few leaks of any kind regarding SCOTUS are extremely rare. The report had instant repercussions across the country, with pro-choice protests occuring in cities like Washington, D.C., New York City, and Los Angeles.
Given the Supreme Court’s structure, a planned ruling like this doesn’t come as a surprise. Thanks to former President Donald Trump’s swearing in of three justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett— during his tenure, SCOTUS now holds a conservative majority of 6-3.
The fierce mixed reactions to the planned ruling have also put Politico at risk for their leaking. According to the Associated Press, the publication has told staff members to be “extra vigilant” amidst tightened office restrictions.
Politico stated the copy of the draft was received from a source who was “familiar with the court’s proceedings.” The document’s authenticity has been confirmed by Supreme Court Chief John Roberts, who also announced an investigation into the leaking.
“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.”
Roberts said the court routinely shares drafts of opinions internally long before the rulings are ever officially published, noting that procedure is an “essential” part of the court’s work. Roberts also stressed that court employees — from justices to law clerks — are intensely loyal to the rule of law and upholding trust to the court, and that the leak was a “egregious breach of that trust.”
Like the leak, the investigation set to come down upon the court is uncharted territory. Many GOP members have called for FBI and federal prosecutor involvement, while Roberts has yet to even appoint a person to conduct the investigation.
According to Politico, many legal experts explained the disclosure is unlikely to result in a criminal charge unless certain circumstances — such as an exchanging of payment — can be proved. Instead, the whistleblower is likely to face punishments that would essentially result in a professional career blow, from firing to disbarment.
Andrew Rhoades is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. A Saint Joseph’s University graduate, Rhoades’ reporting includes sports, U.S., and entertainment. You can reach him at email@example.com.