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Leaked draft opinion suggests Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, report says

ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

A massive leak tonight. Politico is reporting that the Supreme Court has voted to strike down Roe vs. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion in the United States. The publication obtained what appears to be an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulated inside the court. Now, NPR has not independently verified the opinion. Joining us now to discuss all of this is NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Nina, welcome.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Nice to be here.

FLORIDO: Nina, what is this document that Politico has obtained? And does it look legitimate? Does it look like the real thing?

TOTENBERG: It looks entirely legitimate. It looks completely like the real thing. It even has 119 footnotes. It's styled the way Supreme Court opinions are styled. And it has all kinds of earmarks of a Supreme Court opinion. I suppose it could be a massive hoax, but it certainly looks like the real thing. And Politico says that it has at least one source who says that there are four other justices willing to, more or less, join this opinion. Of course, Adrian, you know, justices do change their minds in the course of deliberations, but this apparent draft would seem to reflect what we saw in the courtroom when the case was argued last - I guess it was December. And so I would say, although I haven't been able to find anybody or talk to anybody tonight who can say to me, yes, this is the - an actual draft that I have seen, I would bet the farm on it.

FLORIDO: Could an opinion like this still change?

TOTENBERG: They can always change. And, you know, the Politico story quotes only one source as saying there are apparently five votes for it with the chief justice - it's unclear what position the chief justice would take and the three liberals in dissent. But everything about this is going to be really bad for the court, I have to say, because I have never seen in the time that I've been covering the court, which is a very long time - and I would have to say I know of no other case in which a draft majority opinion has become public. I suppose this may be the result of the fact that we now have computer copies of everything, and it was much more difficult to do this 20, 30, 40 years ago. But you can be sure there's going to be some major inquiry inside the court. I don't know what kind of security the chief justice will be looking at to try to figure out who compromised this draft opinion.

And we should suggest, say repeatedly, this is a draft opinion, assuming it is correct, and I do assume it's correct. But there will be massive consequences inside the court with a lot of suspicion among the justices and among the - particularly among the law clerks, with a complete lockdown and sort of inability to - an effort to deal with the court - with how the court is going to deal with this complete compromise of its own security.

FLORIDO: Well, certainly a highly unusual development. We should note again that NPR has not independently verified this reporting from Politico. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg with news on the leak of an apparent draft Supreme Court opinion seeming to show that the court has voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion in the United States. Nina, thanks for your reporting and for joining us this evening.

TOTENBERG: Thanks, Adrian. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.