Report: US High Court Could Overturn Abortion Rights

03 May 2022

A leaked document suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the country.

An abortion is a medical procedure that ends a pregnancy. The 1973 high court ruling is known as Roe v. Wade. It created a constitutional right for women to choose to have an abortion.

Politico, a Washington, D.C.-based news organization, reported that it received an early version of the majority written opinion. The leaked document was written by Justice Samuel Alito.

Demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court, May 3, 2022 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court, May 3, 2022 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

In the document, Alito stated that "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start." He wrote, "Roe and Casey must be overruled," adding that the U.S. Constitution does not make note of abortion or protect the right to abortion. Planned Parenthood v. Casey is a 1992 court decision that confirmed abortion rights in the country.

The leaked document is said to be a "first draft" of the majority opinion for a case on Mississippi's ban on abortions after the 15th week of a pregnancy. The draft stated, "It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives."

A leak of the high court's documents is extremely rare. A former court officer compared it to the leak of the secret history of the Vietnam War, known as the Pentagon Papers.

Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed on Tuesday that the document is "authentic," or real. But he added that "it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case." Roberts also ordered an investigation into the leak.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine is one of a small number of Republican lawmakers in support of abortion rights. She voted in 2017 and 2018 to confirm Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She said, "If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings at my office." Collins has said that both men told her during the confirmation process that they would not act to overturn Roe v. Wade.

On Tuesday morning, American President Joe Biden told reporters that he hoped there would not be enough votes to overturn Roe. The president earlier said in a statement, "if the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation's elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman's right to choose. And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November." The United States will hold mid-term elections in November.

The abortion debate in America

Shortly after reports on the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade came out, hundreds of pro-choice supporters gathered in front of the Supreme Court. A small group of anti-abortion activists also gathered.

A 2021 opinion study from Pew Research Center found that 59 percent of American adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Thirty-nine percent think it should be illegal.

State leaders reacted to the possible ruling on social media. Republican Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota promised to pass a law banning abortions in her state. She wrote on Twitter, "I will immediately call for a special session to save lives and guarantee that every unborn child has a right to life in South Dakota."

Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul of New York said, "For anyone who needs access to care, our state will welcome you with open arms. New York will always be a place where abortion rights are protected and where abortion is safe..."

The pro-choice research organization Guttmacher Institute says that anti-abortion policymakers have been waiting for the court's anti-abortion majority to weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade.

The organization reported that laws banning abortions have been introduced in 31 American states. Some of the laws are designed to start immediately if Roe is overturned.

I'm Ashley Thompson.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with information from Politico.


Words in This Story

egregious - adj. very bad and easily noticed

draft - n. a version of a document that you make before the final version

accurate - adj. free from mistakes or errors

inconsistent - adj. not in agreement with something