A rally participant shows her support for a woman's right to choose at Smith Park in Jackson on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Members of the U.S. Supreme Court have indicated they are ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, potentially ending the right to abortion in the United States and setting the stage for the procedure to become illegal in Mississippi and many other states, Politico reported Monday night.

Politico obtained a draft majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito and labeled “Opinion of the Court,” in which the justices sided with the state of Mississippi in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The document obtained by Politico is a draft that could change before the Court’s final ruling.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito writes in the draft document, referring to the 1992 case that mostly upheld the right to abortion. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

In a statement, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, which argued the state’s position before the Supreme Court, said the Politico report and the opinion to which it linked could not be verified.

“We will let the Supreme Court speak for itself and wait for the Court’s official opinion,” Attorney General Lynn Fitch said.

The Court’s opinion on the case was widely expected to come in June. The leak of the document is the first time in modern history that a Court opinion has become public before it issues its ruling, Politico reported. 

If ultimately adopted by the Court, the ruling would overturn a 49-year-old precedent, arguing that the 7-2 decision in 1973 was “egregiously wrong from the start.”

Mississippi is one of several states with “trigger laws” that will automatically ban abortion, with few exceptions, if the Court overturns Roe.

The Washington, D.C.-based news organization reported that during an initial vote on the case after oral arguments in December, Alito was joined by conservative justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. The alignment could change before the opinion is finalized, and justices often make multiple rounds of revisions before releasing a ruling. 

Politico reported that the three Democratic-appointed justices, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, are working on one or more draft dissent opinions. 

The publication reported that the position of Chief Justice John Roberts, who has shown more reticence than his fellow Republican appointees to overturn past rulings on abortion, is unclear.

The case stems from a 2018 Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down the law, finding that it ran afoul of the right to an abortion before fetal viability. Mississippi appealed that decision, and the Supreme Court announced it would hear the case in May 2021.

During oral arguments in December, Mississippians on both sides of the issue rallied in Jackson. 

At downtown Jackson’s Smith Park, the “Abortion Freedom Fighters” rally drew about 100 people.

“Mississippi has always been counted out, but today we showed not just the Supreme Court but the governor — we’ve shown people that we are not going to let y’all make decisions on our bodies,” said Valencia Robinson, CEO and founder of Mississippi in Action. “Women, pregnant people, nobody. Because if you’re taking one right away, you’re going to start trying to take other rights away.”

Outside the abortion clinic at the center of the Supreme Court case – the only such clinic in the state – the “Pink House defenders” were guarding the parking lot as they do every day. About 40 anti-abortion protesters prayed, their mouths covered in red tape printed with the word “Life.”

“God almighty visited you and gave you a baby. Will you save it today? Will you love it?” said Coleman Boyd, a regular protester at the clinic. 

Clarification 5/3/22: This story has been updated to make clearer that while Politico reported that members of the U.S. Supreme Court have voted, that decision is not final. The leaked document is a draft opinion, and the vote could change in the future.

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Isabelle, an Atlanta native, covers health as part of Mississippi Today’s community health team. Prior to joining Mississippi Today, she was a reporter for the Biloxi Sun Herald and a Report for America corps member.