Justice Harry Blackmun’s papers have been made public; they show that in 1992, Roe v. Wade, Blackmun’s decision finding a constitutional right to abortion, was nearly overturned. The Associated Press reports:
The Supreme Court was ready in 1992 to effectively overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion, but Justice Anthony M. Kennedy got cold feet, and the vote went the other way.
Justice Blackmun’s notes show that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist led a five-justice majority to overrule Roe. Four other justices voting with Justice Rehnquist were Byron White, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Kennedy. Justice Rehnquist himself was to write the majority opinion.
The Casey case was argued in April and Justice Rehnquist was at work on his majority ruling, when Justice Kennedy sent a note to Justice Blackmun. Justice Kennedy was having second thoughts, and agreed with Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter, to a compromise position.
Justice Blackmun picked up a pink memo pad and scribbled, “Roe Sound.”