The United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. is truly august, its Corinthian columns and ornate pediments reminiscent of the ancient Roman Temple of Mars Ultor erected by Emperor Augustus to commemorate Mars, the god of war, in his role of avenger. Augustus used the imperial design to convey that a new order had arrived after quelling a civil war that had consumed the region for 50 years. Two thousand years later, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito unleashed his own form of revenge from inside the Supreme Court’s columned walls, revealed in a draft opinion he authored, leaked by a or persons not yet known to the public, then published by Politico.
This unprecedented leak reveals that a majority of the Supreme Court’s nine justices appear determined to overturn both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, his two decisions that protect the right to abortion in the United States. Alito’s caustically worded draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health sparked a nationwide furor. Half a century of legal precedent and established law protecting people’s right to abortion could be overturned by five unelected judges appointed for life who rule by decree, much like Roman emperors.
“Roe was blatantly wrong from the start,” Alito’s opinion states. “It is time to respect the Constitution and to return the question of abortion to the elected representatives of the people.
“Elected representatives of the people” are hardly so anymore, as the Supreme Court has in recent years gutted the suffrage law in Shelby v. Holder, authorized unlimited black money to pervert our elections with his Citizens United ruling and gave the state carte blanche. legislatures to gerrymander districts. Now the Republican Party is organizing nationwide to cancel the 2024 election if it doesn’t like the results. The current court is even more extreme and partisan than the one that halted the recount in Florida in 2000 with its famous Bush v. Gore decision. That case overturned the will of the majority of Floridians, who voted to elect Al Gore’s president, handing the election over to Republican George W. Bush instead.
If, as generally expected, the leaked document remains largely unchanged when it is released in June, then Roe and Casey will be overruled. About half of US states have existing laws or laws that would be immediately triggered to severely restrict abortions or ban them altogether. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia, conversely, have enshrined the right to abortion in some degree. Several states, including California, are preparing to enshrine the right to abortion in their constitution.
This wave of abortion bans is likely to cause a cascade of damage, disproportionately among the poorest people, people of color and in other marginalized communities. People will skip needed abortions or obtain them extralegally, putting patients at additional risk, not only to their health, but also potentially exposing them to lawsuits.
This is not mere speculation. Last month in Starr County, Texas, Lizelle Herrera, a 26-year-old Latina, was arrested for murder on charges of causing the “death of an individual by voluntary abortion.” After public outrage and organizing by La Frontera Fund, a local reproductive rights organization run by women of color, the district attorney dropped the charges. A proposed new law in Louisiana, meanwhile, would make the destruction of a fertilized human egg at any stage of its development an act of murder punishable, presumably, by the death penalty in Louisiana.
Judge Alito desperately seizes on history to buttress his anti-abortion argument, citing Henry de Bracton’s ’13th-century treatise’, which mentions punishment for abortions, as if it were somehow referencing at a time when women were considered property and burned at the stake for witchcraft. should control 21st century medicine and law. Alito then provides a list of various US states’ anti-abortion laws, enacted between 1850 and 1919. When these laws were passed, women were denied the vote, and most African Americans were either legally reduced to slavery or, after their emancipation, subject to racial terrorism and lynching. at the hands of law enforcement and the Ku Klux Klan. The traditions of those times, says Alito in his rewrite of history, should dictate current law.
Beneath this mountain of repugnant and outdated laws, Alito and his four cohorts on the Supreme Court are trying to bury the last 50 years of safe and legal abortion, now supported by at least 70% of the American population. If that isn’t legal activism and excess, then nothing is.
“We have to focus on electing champions for choice,” said Kathryn “Kitty” Kolbert, the attorney who successfully argued Planned Parenthood against Casey in the Supreme Court in 1992, on Democracy Now! news time. “We can only achieve this by working hard. It has taken nearly five decades for our adversaries to get where they have been… We, too, can turn the tide.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!”, a daily hour of television and radio news broadcast on more than 1,400 stations. She is co-author, with Denis Moynihan and David Goodman, of the New York Times bestseller “Democracy Now! : 20 Years Covering the Movements Changing America”.