Abortion protesters at the Supreme Court
Source: Getty Images

A Supreme Court Opinion Suggests They Will Overturn Roe v. Wade, but When?

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May. 3 2022, Published 12:50 p.m. ET

On May 2, Politico reported that it had obtained a leaked opinion from the Supreme Court that suggested that the court was prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade. If the decision is made official, it would be a reversal of 50 years of established precedent and a seismic shift in abortion law in the U.S. Now, many want to know when the Supreme Court will officially issue its ruling in the case.

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When will the Supreme Court rule on Roe v. Wade?

The leaked opinion that Politico obtained is not a final ruling. Instead, it was a drafted opinion that was first written in February by Justice Samuel Alito. While Alito seems to have the five votes required to overturn Roe, there is still a theoretical possibility that someone could change their vote before the final decision is issued.

Protester holding "Abortion is Healthcare" sign
Source: Getty Images
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That kind of vote switching is unlikely, and it's also unclear when the final decision will be issued in the case. The Court usually finalizes and announces its decisions over the summer, but it's also possible that they may move up their issuance of an official decision in response to the leak. All things being equal, though, the official decision is likely to be released sometime in June.

What happens if Roe v. Wade is overturned?

If the initial decision is finalized and Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will mean that abortion is no longer legal across all fifty states. As a result, it will be up to legislative bodies to decide whether abortion should be a guaranteed right. Congress could pass a national law legalizing or outlawing abortion, but in the absence of national law, individual states will have to decide the question.

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Practically, that means that, according to the abortion rights group the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are likely to pass partial or full bans on abortion in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. This will mean that millions of people will not have easy access to abortion providers, and they may even be prevented from traveling out of state to receive an abortion in a state where it's legal.

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Don't worry about why the leak happened.

There has been plenty of coverage in the hours since the draft opinion was leaked that is focused on who leaked the document. Conservatives have feigned outrage at the idea that the leak represents a breach in procedure and a collapse of the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

Of course, that presumes that the Supreme Court, an institution where a majority of justices were appointed by men who lost the popular vote in their first election, has any legitimacy left to lose.

Roe v. Wade protected many from a conservative movement bent on messing with their bodily autonomy. Now that it has been overturned, legal analysts suggest that a wave of other rights, including those to same-sex and even interracial marriage, may eventually be overturned as well.

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