Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of a leaked draft court opinion that may toss out longstanding abortion rights, but he noted that the court’s decision is not final.
Roberts ordered an investigation into the leaker.
“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it should not succeed,” the chief justice said in a press release. “The work of the Court won’t be affected in any way.”
“I even have directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak,” Roberts said.
The advance publication of a draft opinion is virtually unprecedented for the high court, where leaks of any kind are exceedingly rare.
The court shares drafts of opinions internally long before they’re issued publicly, Roberts noted, calling it “a routine and essential a part of the Court’s confidential deliberative work.”
The draft on this high-profile abortion case was created in February, in response to Politico, which obtained the opinion.
The justices, law clerks and other employees of the court are “intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law,” Roberts said.
“Court employees have an exemplary and vital tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the Court. This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that’s an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here,” he said.
The publication of the draft opinion rocked Washington, triggering waves of shock and fury from Democrats who at the moment are pushing for Congress to right away codify abortion rights through laws.
President Joe Biden said earlier Tuesday that he’ll work with Congress to pass and sign that laws, if the reported draft opinion does reflect the ultimate ruling.
After Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the draft, Vice President Kamala Harris said it’s “clear” that “opponents of Roe need to punish women and take away their rights to make decisions about their very own bodies.” She added that “Republican legislators in states across the country are weaponizing the usage of the law against women.”
Republicans decried the leak itself, and plenty of called for the kind of investigation the Roberts announced late Tuesday morning. The GOP lawmakers who commented on the draft opinion praised it for putting decisions about abortion within the hands of states as an alternative of the federal government.
The 98-page draft opinion was penned by Justice Samuel Alito, one among six conservatives on a court that has moved sharply to the correct within the wake of the Trump administration.
Alito’s draft would toss out the precedent set by the 1973 case Roe v. Wade and reaffirmed in 1992 by Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Those pivotal rulings protect the correct to get an abortion before the purpose of fetal viability and require that regulations limiting abortion access don’t pose an “undue burden.”
Alito wrote within the draft published by Politico: “We hold that Roe and Casey have to be overruled.”
The draft of the court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization would side with the state of Mississippi in defense of a law that may ban just about all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Lower federal courts had blocked the law on the grounds that it violates the protections established by the Roe and Casey decisions.
The ascendance of the case to the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, made it probably the most significant threats to abortion protections in a long time.
The court was expected to release its official ruling within the case closer to the tip of the term in June, when the justices are inclined to share their biggest decisions.