12 May 2022, The Tablet

Roe v. Wade has reopened debate about the role of the Supreme Court in the United States

Abortion in the United States

Roe v. Wade has reopened debate about the role of the Supreme Court in the United States

The leaked opinion of Samuel A. Alito Jr. has inflamed the debate
Photo: Alamy/upi, Erin Schaff


The legitimacy of the Supreme Court rests on its independence from political parties. But recent events have fuelled the belief that the judges are ‘politicians in robes’

The unauthorised disclosure of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overrule Roe v. Wade – a breach of confidentiality Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr called “absolutely appalling” – was the leak that launched a thousand takes by journalists and legal commentators. It also has inflamed a perennial debate about the role of the court and its nine unelected justices in the lives of the American people.

On 2 May the US news organisation Politico published a draft “opinion of the court” written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr that in uncompromising terms announced the overruling of Roe, the 1973 ruling that recognised a constitutional right to abortion, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 ruling that reaffirmed Roe’s “essential holding” that states couldn’t ban abortion before a foetus was “viable” (23 or 24 weeks into a pregnancy). Almost as an afterthought, the Alito opinion would uphold a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of a pregnancy.


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