The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed that a leaked document – a draft of its ruling to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe versus Wade decision that made abortion a constitutional right – was authentic but not final, The New York Times reported.
The draft, written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito was leaked late on Monday night and was first published by US-based media company The Politico. The document showed that a majority of justices of the Supreme Court were willing to overturn the 49-year precedent that protected a woman’s right to choose.
US Chief Justice John G Roberts Junior, who confirmed the authenticity of the draft, has ordered an investigation into the leak, The New York Times reported.
The draft, indicative of how the Supreme Court is likely to rule on the matter, has sparked protests across the country demanding protection for women’s reproductive rights.
Protestors gathered outside the Foley Square in Manhattan demonstrating on Tuesday against the possible overturning of the verdict, The New York Times reported.
Protests were also held in Washington, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, and Salt Lake City among other places, The New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, United States President Joe Biden criticised the draft’s indicative ruling on May 2, saying that his administration is preparing a response to counter the continued attack on women’s rights.
The court’s verdict is not final till it is published, which is likely to happen within the next two months, according to Politico. The draft verdict has been prepared in response to a case filed by Mississippi to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The Republican-led Legislature had decided to disallow most such abortions in 2018, directly challenging the 1973 Roe versus Wade judgement.
On March 19, 2019, Phil Bryant, who was the Republican governor at the time, had signed the “heartbeat” abortion law, which banned abortions within six weeks, once foetal cardiac activity could be detected, The Indian Express reported.
According to the 1973 verdict, abortions were allowed up till the point of foetal viability, the time period during which a foetus can survive outside the womb. At that time, the foetal viability was considered to be 28 weeks, but experts now believe that the point could now be brought down between 22-24 weeks given advances in science and medicine.
A full labour term is 39 weeks of gestation.
This 1973 ruling has been among the most controversial rulings in the US and has been legally challenged many times over the years, especially with Republicans pushing for it to be overturned, The Guardian reported. If the draft is passed, the United States would become one of four countries to revoke abortion rights in the past three decades.
What did the draft say?
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” wrote Justice Alito on February 10, according to Politico. “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.”
The draft further argued that the 1973 abortion rights ruling was an “exceptionally weak” verdict with “damaging consequences”. It said that the “deeply flawed decision” invented a right that was not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, Politico reported.
The 98-page document has stirred up a controversy in the country as no draft decision of a court has been publicly disclosed in modern history while a case is still pending, reported the Politico.
What did President Biden say?
The United States president on Monday said that he cannot verify whether the draft is “genuine or whether it reflects the final decision” of the Supreme Court.
The administration has strongly argued before the court in defence of the Roe versus Wade ruling, he said.
“We said that Roe is based on a long line of precedent recognizing ‘the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty... against government interference with intensely personal decisions,” Biden said.
He added: “I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental, Roe has been the law of the land for almost fifty years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned.”
The US president also said that if the Supreme Court does overturn the verdict, the responsibility to protect a woman’s right to choose will fall on the country’s elected officials at all levels of the government. The burden will also fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November, he said.