The Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of a leaked draft opinion on Roe v. Wade that would wind back decades of abortion rights in the US, prompting Chief Justice John Roberts to order an investigation into what he described as a "betrayal of the confidences of the Court."
The statement came the morning after Politico published an extraordinary draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in a pending abortion case in which he and other justices in the conservative majority appeared poised to overturn the landmark abortion rights cases of Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992).
A statement from a Supreme Court spokesperson confirmed the leaked opinion was genuine but stressed it was not the court's final decision, which may not be issued until July. The spokesperson stressed that the final position of the justices on the pending case, which concerns a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi, may change.
Stunned legal observers said the leak, which is practically unprecedented in the modern history of the top US court, could severely damage Americans' trust in the court — and the Supreme Court justices' trust in each other.
"To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed," Chief Justice Roberts vowed in his statement. "The work of the Court will not be affected in any way."
Roberts said he had ordered the Marshal of the Court to launch a probe into who may have leaked the document.
"We at the Court are blessed to have a workforce — permanent employees and law clerks alike — intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law. Court employees have an exemplary and important tradition of the Court.
"This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here," Roberts said.