The US Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision protecting the constitutional right to abortion, according to a draft majority opinion circulated inside the court, Politico reported.
The draft opinion, which Politico said it got from a person familiar with the court's deliberations, was written by Justice Samuel Alito and has at least preliminary support from four other Republican-appointed justices, the publication said. The court is scheduled to rule by July in the case.
"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start," Alito wrote, according to Politico. "It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives."
A ruling overturning Roe would be transformational -- legally, politically and socially. Twenty-six states would be likely to ban most abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organisation that backs abortion rights. That shift would come even as countries elsewhere liberalise their abortion laws.
News of the draft ruling comes one day ahead of primary voting in Ohio and Indiana. Overturning Roe could serve to roil midterm elections in November that were set to be a referendum on inflation, crime, immigration and Covid-19.
Disclosure of the draft opinion also marks an extraordinary breach of protocol for an institution that has long prided itself for being almost leak-proof. In the Supreme Court's modern history, no draft decision has been disclosed publicly while a case was pending.
Supreme Court spokeswoman Patricia McCabe said the court had no comment. The White House had no immediate comment.
Politico said Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted with Alito in the private conference the court held after arguments in December. The publication said Chief Justice John Roberts' ultimate vote was unclear and the court's three Democratic appointees were planning to dissent.
A ruling overturning Roe "would deprive half the nation of a fundamental, constitutional right that has been enjoyed by millions of women for over 50 years," American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement. "The breach in protocol at the court pales in comparison to the breach in constitutional freedoms that the court is charged with upholding."