Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in December 2021. It has been updated on May 4, 2022, following the leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito.
A stunning leaked draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling and wipe out nationwide abortion protections that have lasted for half a century is sparking a sharp debate over the role of precedent in the American judiciary.
Supporters of upholding Roe point to the legal principle of stare decisis, which gives compelling weight to past decisions to bind or influence current cases. Advocates who want to overrule Roe say that it was wrongly decided at the time, and it belongs with other overruled decisions like Plessy v. Ferguson, which at the time upheld segregation in schools.