December 3, 2022

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court privately voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade case that has guaranteed the right to abortion for nearly a half-century, according to a leaked draft opinion from February published online Monday night by Politico.

In the draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., a majority of the court voted to overturn Roe, according to Politico. Justice Alito called it wrongly decided and said the contentious issue, which has animated political debates in the United States for more than a generation, should be decided by politicians, not the courts.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Justice Alito writes in the document, labeled the “Opinion of the Court,” according to Politico. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The release of the 98-page document is unprecedented in modern times. In the court’s modern history, early drafts of opinions have never leaked before the final decision is announced. And early drafts of opinions often change by the time the decision from the court is announced.

But if the justices announce a decision along the lines of the early, leaked draft, it would be a seismic change in American law and politics, coming just months before congressional midterm elections that will decide who controls power on Capitol Hill.

Abortion has long split the two parties — and the country — though it had receded as a central issue in recent years. A court decision along the lines of the one in the early draft could spark new political battles in Congress and in states across the country about whether and how the procedure should be limited.

The Politico report said the justices voting to support Justice Alito’s opinion were Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The news organization said Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were working on dissents. It was not clear how Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. planned to vote.

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