Chief Justice Roberts confirms draft Roe v. Wade opinion, orders leak investigation

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed on Tuesday the authenticity of a leaked draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade — and called it an “egregious breach” of trust.

Politico on Monday night published the draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, which stated that the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide “was egregiously wrong from the start.”

In response, Roberts said: “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.

“We at the Court are blessed to have a workforce — permanent employees and law clerks alike — intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law. Court employees have an exemplary and important 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 is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.”

Chief Justice John Roberts. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times/ Pool via AP)
Chief Justice John Roberts. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times/ Pool via AP)

The chief justice said he has “directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.”

The Supreme Court said in a release, “Justices circulate draft opinions internally as a routine and essential part of the Court’s confidential deliberative work. Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

Alito’s leaked opinion stated, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Planned Parenthood v. Casey was the 1992 case that affirmed Roe v. Wade.

A crowd gathers outside the Supreme Court, with one person holding a sign that reads: We Won't Go Back.
A crowd gathers outside the Supreme Court on Monday night. (Alex Brandon/AP)

According to Politico, four other Republican-appointed justices voted with Alito after oral arguments were made on Dec. 1: Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

Votes and opinions aren’t final, however, until a decision is announced or posted on the Supreme Court’s official website.

In the draft, Alito said the court “cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public’s reaction to our work.”

Before the draft’s authenticity was confirmed, President Biden said on Tuesday, “We do not know whether this draft is genuine, or whether it reflects the final decision of the Court.”

“If the Court does overturn Roe,” Biden said in a statement, “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. At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law.”

The leak has drawn outrage from Democrats and Republicans alike, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., calling the vote an “abomination” and “one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”

"Several of these conservative Justices, who are in no way accountable to the American people, have lied to the U.S. Senate, ripped up the Constitution and defiled both precedent and the Supreme Court's reputation — all at the expense of tens of millions of women who could soon be stripped of their bodily autonomy and the constitutional rights they've relied on for half a century," their statement read.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., condemned the leak itself rather than the vote.

"Last night’s stunning breach was an attack on the independence of the Supreme Court," said McConnell in a statement. "By every indication, this was yet another escalation in the radical left’s ongoing campaign to bully and intimidate federal judges and substitute mob rule for the rule of law.”