A Protester sits outside the US. Supreme Court after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later this year, in Washington on May 3, 2022. Image Credit: REUTERS

Washington:  A bombshell draft decision indicating the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade rul-ing that legalized abortion nationwide sent Democrats scrambling on Tuesday, with President Joe Biden vowing to work toward passage of a federal law protecting access to the procedure.

Democrats at the state and federal level and abortion rights activists looked for some way to head off the sweep-ing social change long sought by and Republicans and religious conservatives.

Biden said voters will need to elect more members of Congress who support abortion rights so that they can pass legislation making Roe v. Wade the law of the land. The Roe decision recognized that the right to personal privacy under the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy.

“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,” Biden said.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said, after Politico reported the draft decision, that his state will propose an amendment in the state’s constitution to “enshrine the right to choose”.

“We can’t trust SCOTUS to protect the right to abortion, so well do it ourselves,” Newsom said on Twitter, referring to the Supreme Court.

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the authenticity of the draft opinion. The Supreme Court and the White House declined to comment.

“Do something, Democrats,” abortion-rights protesters chanted as they rallied outside the court in the pre-dawn hours against the decision, which would be a triumph for Republicans who spent decades building the court’s current 6-3 conservative majority.

“If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past fifty years “ not just on women but on all Americans,” Congress’s top two Democrats — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — said in a joint statement. “The Republican-appointed Justices’ reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”

A bill that would have protected the right to abortion nationally died in Congress early this year as Democrats’ razor-thin majority was not enough to overcome Senate rules requiring a supermajority to agree on most legislation.

In the absence of federal action, states have passed a raft of abortion-related laws. Republican-led states have moved swiftly, with new restrictions passed this year in six states.

Three Democratic-led states this year have passed measures intended to protect abortion rights.

Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in US politics and has been for nearly a half century.

A 2021 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 59% of US adults believed it should be legal in all or most cases, while 39% thought it should be illegal in most or all cases.


“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the draft opinion, which is dated February 10, according to Politico, which posted a copy online.

Based on Alito’s opinion, the court would find that the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed abortions performed before a fetus would be viable outside the womb — between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy — was wrongly decided because the US Constitution makes no specific mention of abortion rights.

“Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each state from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” Alito said, according to the leaked document.

The sweeping nature of the decision raised questions among legal experts and court observers about what other rights established by the court could be overturned.

The ruling would be the court’s most sweeping since former President Donald Trump succeeded in naming three justices to the court.

The news broke a little more than six months before midterm elections that will determine if Democrats hold their razor-thin majorities in the US Congress for the next two years of President Joe Biden’s term.

“Congress must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country NOW,” said Independent Senator Bernie Sanders.


The decision appeared based on an oral argument in December on Mississippi’s bid to revive its ban on abortion starting at 15 weeks of pregnancy, a law blocked by lower courts.

The Politico report said a court majority was inclined to uphold Mississippi’s abortion ban and that there could be five votes to overturn Roe. An official ruling is expected before the end of June.

Four of the other Republican-appointed justices “ Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett - voted with Alito in the conference held among the justices, it added.

After an initial vote among the justices following an oral argument, one is assigned the majority opinion and writes a draft. It is then circulated among the justices.

A global look at abortion and some of the world’s toughest laws
As new limits on abortion rights are pursued in the United States and other countries, here is a look at global abortion statistics and some of the world’s strictest abortion laws.
The information is based on data from the UN World Health Organization as well as from the Guttmacher Institute research group and the Center for Reproductive Rights legal advocacy group, both of which support abortion rights.
- Approximately 73 million abortions occur worldwide annually, with 61% of all unintended pregnancies and 29% of all pregnancies ending in abortion, according to the World Health Organisation.
It said about 45% of all abortions are unsafe, of which 97% occur in developing countries. A WHO fact sheet said “Unsafe abortion is a leading - but preventable - cause of maternal deaths and morbidities.”
- There are 16 countries where abortion is prohibited altogether, a list that includes Egypt, Iraq, the Philippines, Laos, Senegal, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. About three dozen other countries allow it only to save the life of the mother, a list that includes Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan and Myanmar. Around 40% of women of reproductive age live in places where abortion access is illegal or limited.
- In the United States, a series of restrictive Republican-backed laws have been passed at the state level, with the conservative-majority US Supreme Court set to vote to overturn a 1973 precedent that legalized the procedure nationwide in a case involving a Mississippi abortion ban beginning at 15 weeks of pregnancy, a law blocked by lower courts. The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, heard oral arguments in December on Mississippi’s bid to revive its ban, and it appeared that a majority was inclined to uphold Mississippi’s abortion ban and that there could be five votes to overturn Roe.
- Poland in January 2021 put into effect a constitutional court decision prohibiting abortions performed due to fetal defects, banning the most common of the few legal grounds for terminating a pregnancy in the largely Catholic country.
- El Salvador has some of the world’s strictest abortion laws, with the procedure banned without exception since 1998.
More than 180 women who experienced obstetric emergencies were prosecuted for abortion or aggravated homicide in the past 20 years.
- Women in Malta are denied access to abortion, even if their lives are at risk. It is the only EU member state that completely prohibits the procedure. Women face up to three years in jail.
- Senegal prohibits abortion but its code of medical ethics allows it if three doctors agree it is needed to save a woman’s life. A 2014 study showed the rules force women to seek clandestine abortions and, as a last resort, kill their own infants.
- Anti-abortion laws in the Philippines derive from its time as a colony of Spain. Abortion has been prohibited for more than a century. About 1,000 Filipino women die each year from complications. Spain is among more than 50 countries that have liberalized abortion laws over the past quarter century.

At times, in between the initial vote and the ruling being released, the vote alignment can change. A ruling is only final when it is published by the court.

The news of the draft opinion stunned abortion providers.

Andrea Gallegos, executive administrator at Tulsa Women’s Clinic in Oklahoma, had just finished calling some 25 patients to tell them their Tuesday abortion appointments would need to be canceled because of a soon to be enacted Oklahoma law modeled on a highly restrictive Texas abortion ban.

“I can’t say that I’m surprised,” she said.

“Now all these other conservative states like Oklahoma are passing the exact same legislation that Texas did, I have to say I became less optimistic and way more scared for what the future of Roe looks like.” The Roe v. Wade decision recognized the right to personal privacy under the US Constitution protects a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy.

Christian conservatives and many Republican officeholders have long sought to overturn it.

If Roe is overturned, abortion is likely to remain legal in liberal states. More than a dozen states have laws protecting abortion rights. Numerous Republican-led states have passed various abortion restrictions in defiance of the Roe precedent in recent years.

The anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List welcomed the news.

“If Roe is indeed overturned, our job will be to build consensus for the strongest protections possible for unborn children and women in every legislature, its president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, said in a statement.