A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the precedent that has underpinned abortion rights in the United States for 49 years, according to a leaked draft of a ruling Politico reported Monday evening.

The draft, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, is the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case surrounding Mississippi’s 2018 law banning abortion after 15 weeks gestation.

Mississippi lawmakers have said in recent years that they hoped the case, with the aid of former President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court appointees, would ensure the end of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 case that affirmed women have the right to an abortion before fetal viability.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito writes in the draft document, dated February 2022. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

After this story first published, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the draft is real.

The ruling is not final, however, and will not be until the court formally issues its opinion sometime before the end of June. In its report, Politico noted that “no draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending.”

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who led the state in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs case, released a statement this evening after the leaked draft appeared.

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

In a statement, the Center For Reproductive Rights, which is representing the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in the Dobbs case, reacted to the leak.

“What we do know is that if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade it will be an unjustified, unprecedented stripping away of a guaranteed right that has been in place for nearly five decades. It would represent the most damaging setback to the rights of women in the history of our country.

“It’s important to remember that the Court has not yet issued a decision and abortion remains legal in the United States.”

SCOTUSBlog, an independent news and analysis site focused on the nation’s high court, tweeted Monday night that “the document leaked to Politico is almost certainly an authentic draft opinion by J. Alito that reflects what he believes at least 5 members of the Court have voted to support—overruling Roe.”

“But as Alito’s draft, it does not reflect the comments or reactions of other Justices,” SCOTUSBlog said, adding that the leak will cause an “earthquake … inside the Court.”

News of the leak broke during a Democratic congressional forum hosted by the Mississippi Federation of Democratic Women. Democrats running for Congress in the June primary had just finished offering their views on abortion. Johnny DuPree, a candidate for Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District, interrupted his own answer to a separate question about the minimum wage.

“We just got word that the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade,” said DuPree, a former Hattiesburg, Miss., mayor who ran as the Democratic nominee for governor in 2011. He said the news highlighted the fact that the nation needed to do more to help working class people and their families.

Moments before the news broke, DuPree told the audience that he supports “a woman’s right and ability to control their reproductive life”—reversing a position he staked out in 2011, when he supported the Mississippi Personhood Amendment. That ballot proposition, which voters rejected, sought to ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican, is currently promoting a federal “Life at Conception” bill similar to Mississippi’s failed Personhood Amendment. While Justice Alito’s draft opinion says the court is returning abortion to the states, The Washington Post today reported that some Republicans and anti-abortion organizations are discussing plans to make abortion illegal nationwide.

In the draft opinion Politico reported, Alito writes that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”

“Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepend division,” the draft says.

Since the Dobbs hearings in December, most court observers have expected the conservative-majority court to overturn Roe v. Wade. In Mississippi, reproductive rights groups began organizing months earlier in anticipation of such an outcome, boosting efforts to educate people about self-managed abortions in the event of such a decision.

During the Trump years, anti-abortion Christian dominionist groups enthusiastically backed his Supreme Court appointees, particularly Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. They replaced Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had both rejected efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. Before Trump’s election, his Democratic opponent, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, warned voters that a Republican president’s U.S. Supreme Court appointees would strike down Roe v. Wade.

The group that wrote Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, the Alliance Defending Freedom, previewed its plan in 2018.

“We have a plan to make Roe irrelevant or completely reverse it,” Kevin Theriot, the vice president of the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Center for Life, told a crowd of anti-abortion activists at the Evangelicals for Life Conference in Washington, D.C., that year.

ADF senior counsel Denise Burke explained that the organization’s lawyers had written the legislation and given it to Mississippi lawmakers as part of a “strategic” and “comprehensive” plan to “eradicate Roe.” Right Wing Watch’s Peter Montgomery reported. Burke said the legislation would force abortion-rights groups to file a lawsuit ripe to reach the nation’s high court, which Trump was already remaking at the time.

“Once we get these first-trimester limitations in place, we’re going to go for a complete ban on abortion, except to save the lives of the mother,” Burke said in 2018.

Award-winning News Editor Ashton Pittman, a native of the South Mississippi Pine Belt, studied journalism and political science at the University of Southern Mississippi. Previously the state reporter at the Jackson Free Press, he drove national headlines and conversations with award-winning reporting about segregation academies. He has won numerous awards, including Outstanding New Journalist in the South, for his work covering immigration raids, abortion battles and even former Gov. Phil Bryant’s unusual work with “The Bad Boys of Brexit" at the Jackson Free Press. In 2021, as a Crirec reporter, he was named the Diamond Journalist of the Year for seven southern U.S. states in the Society of Professional Journalists Diamond Awards. A trained photojournalist, Ashton lives in South Mississippi with his husband, William, and their two pit bulls, Dorothy and Dru. Follow on Twitter @ashtonpittman. Send tips to [email protected].