U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts said on Tuesday that the Supreme Court will investigate the leak of a draft decision indicating a majority of the nine justices are set to overturn the constitutional right to abortion, a breach of the court's trust that he called a "betrayal."
In a news release, the court confirmed that the document is authentic but cautioned that the draft opinion, dated from February – which would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide – does not represent the "final position of any member on the issues in the case."
Since the draft's release, Democrats scrambled to respond to the bombshell leak and President Joe Biden vowed to try to protect abortion rights.
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.
Democratic-backed legislation to protect abortion access nationally died in Congress this year as the razor-thin majority held by Biden's party was insufficient to overcome Senate rules requiring a supermajority to move forward on most legislation.
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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.
The leak, which has ignited protests nationwide and outside the Surpreme Court steps, led Justice Roberts to direct the court's marshal to launch an investigation into its source.
"To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the court will not be affected in any way," Roberts said.
The news release made clear that draft opinions are routinely circulated internally as part of the justices' confidential deliberative process. The leak represents a major break from the longstanding tradition of confidentiality and trust surrounding deliberations among the justices.