A leaked document has revealed one of nine US Supreme Court justices described the 1973 legislation that enshrined the right to an abortion in the constitution as “egregiously wrong”.
A leaked document that suggests the US Supreme Court could move to abolish the constitutional right to an abortion has been branded a “disgrace” and “the greatest restriction of rights in 50 years”.
Late on Monday Politico published a draft ‘opinion’ on abortion rights written by the Conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito which describes the landmark 1973 case Roe v Wade as “wrong from the start”.
He adds: “We hold that Roe and Casey [another fundamental abortion case] must be overruled.”
Although Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed the document’s authenticity, he has said it “does not represent a decision by the court or the final position”. It is also not known if amendments have been made since it was written in February.
But should it pass, at least 22 US states could introduce bans on abortion.
What is Roe v Wade?
Roe v Wade was the landmark case of a Texan woman, Norma McCorvey, who was referred to by the legal pseudonym of Jane Roe to protect her privacy.
In 1969 she became pregnant with her third child and was unable to get an abortion because the state only allowed them if the mother’s life was in danger.
Her lawyers brought a case against the local district attorney Henry Wade to the US Federal Court, claiming Texan abortion laws were unconstitutional.
The District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in her favour, but Mr Wade appealed the decision at the Supreme Court.
After hearing the arguments, in 1973 the court revealed seven of its nine justices had voted in favour of Ms Roe.
This meant a change to the constitution and that regardless of any state laws banning abortion, every woman in the US has the right to one within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – and some rights to one beyond that.
Without the protection of the 1973 ruling, abortion laws would be decided at state level.
What does the leaked Supreme Court document show?
The Supreme Court is currently presiding over the case Dobbs V Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which argues the 2018 Mississippi state ban on abortions after 15 weeks is unconstitutional.
The case cites both Roe v Wade and another key piece of US-wide abortion legislation – Planned Parenthood v Casey from 1992.
That case saw five criteria of Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act (1982) overturned by the Supreme Court.
Justices ruled that the required waiting period, the need to inform the woman’s spouse, and parental consent for minors were “undue burdens” on women seeking abortions up to 24 weeks.
The leaked ‘draft opinion’ written by Justice Alito reads: “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 inflamed debate and deepened division.”