As expected, the Republican Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and for the first time in history took away a right the American people believed they had. The vote in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was six to three. The case challenged a Mississippi law that in effect changed the deadline for getting an abortion to 15 weeks. The standard set previously by decisions in Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey was 23 weeks.
The six voting to uphold the Mississippi law were the Republican appointees to the Court. Five of the six, Chief Justice John Roberts not going along, decided to go further than Mississippi asked. Ignoring the tradition of keeping their ruling as narrow as possible, the majority of five decided in addition to upholding the Mississippi law they would rule that the entire doctrine in Roe and Casey should be overturned as improperly decided in 1973. That strips American women of their right to control their own bodies and determine the course of their own health care.
The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, did not deviate much from Alito’s original draft, circulated weeks ago in a dramatic leak from the Court. It is clear Alito relished his assignment, writing, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” adding, the reasoning in Roe “was exceptionally weak.” The key points:
- The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.
- Roe and Casey are overruled.
- The authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.
There is a lot to unpack here so let’s get on with it. First, there is no surprise. Decades ago, Republicans decided Evangelical Christians were an essential part of their base. They have been pandering to them ever since. This is the one issue at the top of the Evangelical’s wish list, and they are thrilled Roe has been overturned.
Senator Republican leader Mitch McConnell has made overturning Roe his life’s crusade. He calls the Dobbs decision, “courageous and correct.” McConnell, aided and abetted in the last chapter of the saga by Donald Trump, who praised Dobbs, got three right wing conservatives on the bench during Trump’s one and only, so far, term. He first deprived President Barack Obama of a nominee by refusing, for nearly a year, the longest delay in history, to consider Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to succeed Anton Scalia.
McConnell then hypocritically rammed through the Senate the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, nominated by Trump to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just days before the 2020 election. While Democrats dicker and negotiate amongst themselves, Republicans believe the end justifies the means. They don’t care how hypocritical their position is or who they hurt. And they win.
If you think the Dobbs decision is correct. Then you can go ahead and celebrate. This column is for those who do not. If you want to assign blame, start by looking in the mirror. Every single voter who just couldn’t bring themselves to cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton in 2016 is to blame. You voted for a monster, or at least, by sitting on the sidelines, allowed a monster to occupy the Oval Office. We are still fighting the destruction Trump left in his wake.
And if you don’t think the Republicans appealed to those with racist motives, watch first-term Republican Representative Mary Miller of east-central Illinois thank Trump for “the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday.” Later, a campaign aide said she meant to say, “right to life,” but misspoke. Just days after taking office in January 2021, Miller was facing calls for her resignation after she cited Adolf Hitler in a speech to a conservative women’s group in referring to the political indoctrination of youths.
You have to put some blame on the notorious Ginsburg herself. She should have resigned, giving a Democrat the opportunity to name her successor. It must be very painful for a justice of the Supreme Court to have to consider such things. But that is where we are today. Justice Stephen Breyer, who joined in the Dobbs dissent and wrote the dissent in the New York gun law case, has resigned effective at the almost upon us end of term.
Breyer will be succeeded by Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Breyer is in good health, but the 83-year-old resigned now rather than having to retire due to health reasons after the 2022 election, when the Democrats may well lose control of the Senate. For that Breyer is a hero. Ginzburg, who died at the age of eighty-seven while still on the bench, was a multiple cancer survivor who was obviously in poor health. She resisted many calls to step down. Her death allowed the conservative Republicans to gain their sixth seat and change the balance of the court, dooming Roe.
A special shout out in the blame game goes to Joe Manchin, the Senator from West Virginia who runs as a Democrat, votes as a Republican and in general acts as though he is the most important person in the country. Manchin has acted repeatedly since the start of President Joe Biden’s term in office to block the progressive legislation Biden promised and the American people, by a margin of more than seven million votes, said they wanted. In 2018, the last time he ran for election, Manchin won 290,510 votes. Only 586,034 people voted in the whole damn state of West Virginia.
Manchin was one of only three Democrats to vote to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch, who stole Garland’s seat and the only Democrat who voted to confirm the incompetent drunk Brett Kavanaugh. Both voted to overturn Roe after testifying that they believed the case was settled legal precedent during their confirmation hearings.
Manchin tweeted he is “deeply disappointed” in the Court’s decision:
“I trusted Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that they also believed Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent and I am alarmed they chose to reject the stability the ruling has provided for two generations of Americans.”
While Manchin now says he would support legislation to codify the rights guaranteed by Roe into law, he voted last month against the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have enshrined abortion protections into federal law, arguing the bill would have gone too far. You can get whiplash following Manchin around Washington.
But when it comes to mealy-mouthed wishy-washy oratory it is hard to beat the Senator from Maine, Susan Collins. The self-proclaimed moderate Republican, who always seems to vote the hard right line, is also upset. She also voted to confirm Trumps’s right-wing judges proclaiming to all who would listen, which means about every television camera in Washington, that she had gotten their support for a women’s right to choose.
Collins is in hiding someplace but her office has issued a statement on the Dobbs decision:
“The Supreme Court has abandoned a fifty-year precedent at a time that the country is desperate for stability. This ill-considered action will further divide the country at a moment when, more than ever in modern times, we need the Court to show both consistency and restraint. Throwing out a precedent overnight that the country has relied upon for half a century is not conservative. It is a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos, anger, and a further loss of confidence in our government.
“This decision is inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me, where they both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon.”
Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me over and over again, maybe I’d better admit that I’m the fool. When will the people of Maine stop sending us Senator Collins?
To be continued….