Late last night, Politico released a story on a leaked Supreme Court opinion draft. This draft was written by Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative member of the Court. The opinion is in regards to the Thomas v. Dobbs case originating in Mississippi, where a suit was brought regarding state legislation that prohibits an abortion after fifteen weeks of pregnancy.
The leaked opinion has been touted as the potential Supreme Court overthrow of Roe v. Wade, a five-decades old decision which allowed for women to decide whether or not to carry out an unwanted pregnancy. The Court heard arguments on the Thomas v. Dobbs case in January. The leaked opinion was written in February.
As a result of Politico’s story, protests (although peaceful) broke out on the grounds of Capitol Hill. This morning, members of the Democratic Party, namely the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement regarding the opinion of the Court. The mainstream media began running the story shortly after its release, with many political pundits on both sides of the aisle claiming this could be the end of the landmark abortion rights case.
Around mid-day Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts, along with other justices, released a statement regarding the leak. Justice Roberts “strongly” condemned the leak, saying that it creates an immense distrust between the American people and one of the most revered American institutions in the country. Roberts also called the leak “egregious.”
The members of the Court also admitted that the leaked document is “indeed real.”
However, the Justices’ statement also said that the draft is just that, and it is not a final decision on the matter.
“Justices circulate draft opinions internally as a routine and essential part of the Court’s confidential deliberative work. . . (the draft) does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case,” according to the Court’s statement.
Chief Roberts added in a personal statement that the Court would not allow the work of the Court to be “affected in any way,” although Roberts did say that the person who leaked the draft was attempting to “undermine” the Court. He also said that he had instructed the Marshall of the Court to begin investigating the source of the leak.
Initially, political pundits said the leak itself is not considered a violation of law, but, Fox legal analyst Andy McCarthy said that because the document is a piece of government property, the leaker could very well be prosecuted.
Previously, most pundits said that the act of leaking the document was more of an ethical issue than a legal issue. Since the Court has authorized the investigation of the leak, it remains to be seen how the leaker, when found out, will be punished. If the guilty party is an attorney, the unethical nature of the leak could see the individual being disbarred.
President Joe Biden has not made a formal statement regarding the leaked document, but he did speak to the press shortly before boarding Air Force One early Tuesday. He warned that “a whole range of rights are in question.”
Biden told members of the press, “Look, the idea, it concerns me, that we’re gonna, after fifty years, decide a woman does not have the right to choose, number one, but, equally as profound is the rationale, and it remained the every other decision in the notion of privacy is brought into question.”
In 1974, however, President Biden spoke out against abortion: “I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.”
The Hill is in a twitter over what the repercussions of the leak might be. Some believe that the Senate will attempt to once more shore up votes to kill the filibuster in order to codify Roe v. Wade. However, Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) have said that the filibuster must be protected “at all costs.”
The Senate Democrats do not have the sixty votes needed in order to pass the bill regarding codification of Roe v. Wade and would have to utilize the “nuclear option” in order to push the legislation through.