As I write this article, tears are flowing down my face…
In my lifetime, I never thought I would see the day when a majority of Supreme Court Justices would agree that abortion rights should not have been decided in the Supreme Court but instead, left up to the individual states to decide.
Thanks to President Donald J. Trump, a historic decision by three of his appointees to the Supreme Court, Justices, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett as well as George W. Bush appointed Justice Alito and George H. W. Bush appointed Thomas, an untold number of lives will be saved.
Politico reports – The Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulated inside the court and obtained by POLITICO.
The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights, and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” he writes in the document, labeled as the “Opinion of the Court.” “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
Deliberations on controversial cases have in the past been fluid. Justices can and sometimes do change their votes as draft opinions circulate and major decisions can be subject to multiple drafts and vote-trading, sometimes until just days before a decision is unveiled. The court’s holding will not be final until it is published, likely in the next two months.
The immediate impact of the ruling as drafted in February would be to end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. It’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft.
No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending. The unprecedented revelation is bound to intensify the debate over what was already the most controversial case on the docket this term.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton blasted the leak, calling it “criminal.” In his tweet, Fitton says that he suspects the “criminal leak” happened so that Justices could be intimidated and threatened with violence.
The leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion on Roe is a dangerous obstruction of justice. And it could very well lead to intimidation and violence directed at Supreme Court justices. Which, I suspect, is the point of the criminal leak.
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) May 3, 2022
Fitton isn’t wrong…the threats are already beginning, starting with an ominous warning from Justice Sotomayor:
Sotomayor warned that overturning Wade was essentially terminating the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, and by extension the United States
She was right and we would all be wise to get ready for what happens next
— moby dickgirl (@epistemophagy) May 3, 2022
On Dec. 1, 2021, Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether the legitimacy of the Supreme Court would endure if it overturned abortion rights during a landmark hearing on a Mississippi law restricting the procedure.
“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Sotomayor said during oral arguments Wednesday morning. “I don’t see how it is possible.”
SCOTUS Blog blasted the leak, saying “It’s impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the Court. in terms of destruction of trust among the Justices and staff.” They added, “This leak is the gravest, most unforgivable sin.”
It’s impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the Court, in terms of the destruction of trust among the Justices and staff. This leak is the gravest, most unforgivable sin.
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) May 3, 2022
The draft opinion offers an extraordinary window into the justices’ deliberations in one of the most consequential cases before the court in the last five decades. Some court-watchers predicted that the conservative majority would slice away at abortion rights without flatly overturning a 49-year-old precedent. The draft shows that the court is looking to reject Roe’s logic and legal protections.
“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.”
A person familiar with the court’s deliberations said that four of the other Republican-appointed justices – Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – had voted with Alito in the conference held among the justices after hearing oral arguments in December, and that line-up remains unchanged as of this week.
The three Democratic-appointed justices – Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – are working on one or more dissents, according to the person. How Chief Justice John Roberts will ultimately vote, and whether he will join an already written opinion or draft his own, is unclear.
POLITICO received a copy of the draft opinion from a person familiar with the court’s proceedings in the Mississippi case along with other details supporting the authenticity of the document. The draft opinion runs 98 pages, including a 31-page appendix of historical state abortion laws. The document is replete with citations to previous court decisions, books and other authorities, and includes 118 footnotes. The appearances and timing of this draft are consistent with court practice.
Republican advisor Matt Wolking is pointing the finger at a Justice Sonia Sotomayor clerk for the leak. While he doesn’t show any clear evidence of his claim, he does lay out a compelling case in his tweet:
A person called Amit Jain clerks for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
As a Yale student, Jain blasted Yale for supporting Brett Kavanaugh's nomination.
Jain was quoted in a 2017 Politico piece by Josh Gerstein.
Today, Gerstein published the draft SCOTUS opinion on Roe.
— Matt Wolking (@MattWolking) May 3, 2022
The disclosure of Alito’s draft majority opinion – a rare breach of Supreme Court secrecy and tradition around its deliberations – comes as all sides in the abortion debate are girding for the ruling. Speculation about the looming decision has been intense since the December oral arguments indicated a majority was inclined to support the Mississippi law.
Under longstanding court procedures, justices hold preliminary votes on cases shortly after argument and assign a member of the majority to write a draft of the court’s opinion. The draft is often amended in consultation with other justices, and in some cases the justices change their votes altogether, creating the possibility that the current alignment on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could change.
The chief justice typically assigns majority opinions when he is in the majority. When he is not, that decision is typically made by the most senior justice in the majority.
A George W. Bush appointee who joined the court in 2006, Alito argues that the 1973 abortion rights ruling was an ill-conceived and deeply flawed decision that invented a right mentioned nowhere in the Constitution and unwisely sought to wrench the contentious issue away from the political branches of government.
Alito’s draft ruling would overturn a decision by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that found the Mississippi law ran afoul of Supreme Court precedent by seeking to effectively ban abortions before viability.
Roe’s “survey of history ranged from the constitutionally irrelevant to the plainly incorrect,” Alito continues, adding that its reasoning was “exceptionally weak,” and that the original decision has had “damaging consequences.”
“The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions,” Alito writes.
Alito’s skewering of Roe and the endorsement of at least four other justices for that unsparing critique is also a measure of the court’s rightward turn in recent decades. Roe was decided 7-2 in 1973, with five Republican appointees joining two justices nominated by Democratic presidents.
The overturning of Roe would almost immediately lead to stricter limits on abortion access in large swaths of the South and Midwest, with about half of the states set to immediately impose broad abortion bans. Any state could still legally allow the procedure.
“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” the draft concludes. “Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
The draft contains the type of caustic rhetorical flourishes Alito is known for and that has caused Roberts, his fellow Bush appointee, some discomfort in the past.
At times, Alito’s draft opinion takes an almost mocking tone as it skewers the majority opinion in Roe, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, a Richard Nixon appointee who died in 1999.
Roe expressed the ‘feel[ing]’ that the Fourteenth Amendment was the provision that did the work, but its message seemed to be that the abortion right could be found somewhere in the Constitution and that specifying its exact location was not of paramount importance,” Alito writes.
Alito declares that one of the central tenets of Roe, the “viability” distinction between fetuses not capable of living outside the womb and those which can, “makes no sense.”
In several passages, he describes doctors and nurses who terminate pregnancies as “abortionists.”
When Roberts voted with liberal jurists in 2020 to block a Louisiana law imposing heavier regulations on abortion clinics, his solo concurrence used the more neutral term “abortion providers.” In contrast, Justice Clarence Thomas used the word “abortionist” 25 times in a solo dissent in the same case.