A leaked document authored by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito suggests the majority of the court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a Politico report published Monday. If true, the ruling would effectively end protections on abortion rights at a federal level, allowing states to enforce their own laws regarding access to abortion.
Assuming the document — a draft opinion — is legitimate, it does not mean Roe v. Wade would be overturned immediately. Justices are allowed to change their votes before the announcement of a formal ruling, which isn’t expected until next month at the earliest.
Still, more than a dozen states have already enacted “trigger laws” — laws that are currently unenforceable, but may go into effect upon a change in federal policy — that would severely limit or outlaw abortion access once a decision is announced. Others have older, pre-Roe v. Wade laws still on the books that could potentially be enforced if the landmark 1973 decision is struck down.
That’s not to say many of these states, and others, haven’t already tried to place restrictions or limitations on abortion access, despite the protections afforded by the federal government. Several have passed “heartbeat” bills that would prohibit abortion after six weeks, while many require waiting periods or mandatory counseling before a procedure. And in Texas, lawmakers passed a bill that allow private citizens to sue abortion providers who perform the procedure after approximately six weeks of pregnancy — which, despite challenges, the Supreme Court has allowed to remain in effect. Oklahoma’s lawmakers voted to approve a similar bill this month.
Upon news of a possible forthcoming Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey), lawmakers in states across the country have since vowed to protect abortion rights, including N.Y. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, among other Democratic governors across the country.
Protections for abortion are already codified or “explicitly” permitted on a state level in 16 states and D.C., according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights research group focused on sexual and reproductive health. Some states have also been working to expand protections to abortion providers since learning of the possibility that Roe v. Wade could be overturned. Among the most recent, Connecticut passed a bill to protect abortion providers from being sued for performing abortions on out-of-state patients, and Colorado’s governor signed into law a bill that would guarantee abortion rights in the state.
Monday’s news has also prompted President Biden to comment on the possibility of Roe v. Wade’s reversal.
“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,” Biden said, after warning that the authenticity of the draft opinion published by Politico was unverified. In the event the draft is genuine and reflects a final decision, he urged state lawmakers to uphold abortion rights, and voters to elect “pro-choice officials” in November.
“At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law,” he said.