A leaked initial draft majority opinion suggests the US Supreme Court has voted to overturn the Roe v Wade decision that legalised abortion nationwide, according to reports.
Other agencies, including Reuters and CNN, were unable to immediately independently confirm the report by Politico.
But if correct, it would be an unprecedented disclosure of a draft Supreme Court opinion.
The Supreme Court and the White House declined to comment.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the draft opinion, which is dated February 10, according to Politico.
He said Roe “must be overruled.”
“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Justice Alito wrote.
“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s representatives. That is what the Constitution and the rule of law demand.”
Four of the other Republican-appointed justices – Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – voted with Alito in the conference held among the justices, the report said.
“It is possible there have been some changes since then (February 10),” Politico reporter Josh Gerstein, who broke the story, said on MSNBC late on Monday night (local time.
After an initial vote among the justices following the oral argument, one is assigned the majority opinion and writes a draft. That draft is then circulated among the justices.
At times, in between the initial vote and the ruling being released, the vote alignment can change.
A ruling is only final when it is published by the court.
In a post on Twitter, Neal Katyal, a lawyer who regularly argues before the court, said if the report was accurate it would be “the first major leak from the Supreme Court ever”.
The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, heard oral arguments in December on Mississippi’s bid to revive its ban on abortion starting at 15 weeks of pregnancy, a law blocked by lower courts.
The 1973 Roe v Wade decision recognised the right to personal privacy under the US Constitution protects a woman’s ability to choose to terminate her pregnancy.
The Supreme Court in a 1992 ruling called Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey reaffirmed abortion rights and prohibited laws imposing an “undue burden” on abortion access.
In a tweet responding to the Politico leak on Monday, Planned Parenthood said it was “outrageous … but not final”.
“Let’s be clear: This is a draft opinion. It’s outrageous, it’s unprecedented, but it’s not final. Abortion is your right — and it is STILL LEGAL.”
Far-right representative Marjorie Taylor Greene hailed the leaked report.
“The Supreme Court is preparing to overturn Roe – the most significant and glorious news of our lifetime,” she tweeted.
“Join me in praying to God for the right outcome. Life begins at conception. Let’s protect it.”
Another conservative politician, North Carolina Congressman Dan Bishop quoted from a section of the US Declaration of Independence on “unalienable rights”.
“That among these are life,” he tweeted.
Mississippi asked the justices to overturn the Roe and Casey rulings.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Twitter New York will “always guarantee” the right to abortion.
“This is an absolutely disgraceful attack on our fundamental right to choose, and we will fight it with everything we’ve got,” Governor Hochul said on Twitter in reaction to Politico‘s report.
Abortion in the US is partially regulated by federal laws (under Roe v Wade) and partly by the states.
Expecting the Supreme Courts pivotal decision, states have been rushing to amend their new laws. Republican states have enacted some of the strictest limits on abortion in decades, while Democrat states have sought to secure abortion access as a fundamental right within their borders, as well as prepare for out-of-state women seeking treatment.
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