"Yesterday, a news organization published a copy of a draft opinion in a pending case," reads a letter from the high court. "Although the document described in [Monday'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."
The case referred to is Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health – a high-profile Mississippi abortion-related case that the court is expected to rule on officially by the end of June. The draft document, bearing a February 2022 date, is signed by Associate Justice Samuel Alito and states, in part:
"Roe [v. Wade] was egregiously wrong from the start …. 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."
Chief Justice John Roberts describes the actions behind the leaked document as a "betrayal of the confidences" of the high court and an "egregious breach" of the trust and confidentiality that the court's workforce historically has upheld.
"[This] was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations [but] it will not succeed," the letter quotes Roberts. "The work of the Court will not be affected in any way …. I have directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak."
The news outlet Politico published an article Monday evening citing the rough draft and suggesting it shows a majority of the justices had thrown their support behind overturning the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide. By noon Tuesday, the chief justice had confirmed that the draft was authentic.
Nevertheless, pro-life leaders are urging caution and advising advocates for the unborn not to jump to conclusions.
"This is not the official opinion [of the Supreme Court]," notes Mallory Carroll of the Susan B. Anthony List. "So, we need all pro-life Americans to pray urgently for the Supreme Court justices that this would be the final opinion, a 5-4 decision that overturns Roe v. Wade."
Carroll explains what would happen if the court does just that. "This returns the right of the people to enact laws through their legislatures, not by judicial fiat – which is what was the case with Roe v. Wade," she tells AFN. "We must pray that the justices are undeterred by the pressure that is coming now from the pro-abortion lobby for a different outcome overall."
Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life Committee echoes that advice. "Until that final decision comes out any justice can change his or her mind, can change his or her opinion, and which opinion they're going to sign on to," she offers. "So, I'm not going to take anything for granted until I see the final document."
"The news is great. The leak is appalling," says Ruth Institute president Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. "But even though Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the document's authenticity, it's only a draft and could be changed many times before the actual decision is handed down. [However,] if the court indeed overturns Roe v. Wade, it will be on the right side of history for a change."
A member of the Project 21 Black Leadership Network says the leak, while deeply concerning, should excite pro-life Americans about the possibility that justice for the unborn is right around the corner.
"I think this is a major breach of the integrity of the court – and I think obviously it's for nefarious purposes," states Patrina Mosely. "But I think it gives us a positive glimpse into hopefully reversing a major wrong in this country.
"If this is truly the direction the court has gone and will be going and will release officially in time, then this will be the second greatest reversal of our country's history next to slavery. So, I'm really excited but concerned that such a breach of trust was made."
And the leaker?
While the pro-life community reacts to the implications of the leak, some well-known conservatives are turning their attention to the source of the leak.
Fox News host and radio commentator Mark Levin: "[Whoever leaked this draft opinion has] participated in a grave assault on the Supreme Court of the United States of America – and every Democrat and anyone else who uses this as a political opportunity, whether to push for the filibuster rule to be eliminated in the Senate or start attacking the justices – these are all corrupt, poisonous people and voices who are attacking the foundations of this country."
Legal scholar and law professor Jonathan Turley: "What occurred with this leak was an unspeakably unethical act – and it is unfortunately a sign of our times. We're living in an age of rage where nothing seems inviolate anymore, no principle seems sacred …. Even though this is a city that floats on a rolling sea of leaks, the court was always an island of integrity ….
"The court has a long tradition that it would not yield to politics, it would not yield to dirty tricks. Somebody shattered that tradition – and the investigation that will now ensue is going to shatter the culture of the court. It's going to take a lot to get to the bottom of this. Yes, it's a small institution, it's a small number of people who are likely involved; but whoever did this likely took steps to hide their tracks."
Fox News host and commentator Laura Ingraham: "No matter what you think about this outcome, the leak itself represents a shocking and unprecedented breach of the court's confidentiality. It is not up to a law clerk to decide when the decision of the court will be announced in what is a naked attempt to try to change the outcome before the final opinion is announced."