Earlier this week a draft opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was leaked. The controversial document signals an end to Roe v Wade. That case, decided in 1973, held that although not specifically stated, a woman’s ability to terminate a pregnancy, was among the fundamental personal rights guaranteed by the Constitution. In 1992, Planned Parenthood v Casey upheld that right.
Now we have a high court, packed by three very conservative jurists appointed by former President Donald J. Trump, turning legal precedent and the will of the American people upside down. Remember that a woman’s right to a choice and autonomy over her own body were a hot topic during Senate confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch, Brent Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Each testified under oath that Roe v Wade was settled law, and a legal precedent arcing over almost half a century.
Pro-choice advocates believe it’s a woman’s right to make independent, deeply personal decisions regarding her health and when — or if — she’s ready or prepared to bear a child. They trusted that those sworn statements signified a respect for legal history and the precedent established by Roe. But now Trump’s appointees have joined the other conservative justices to stand against precedent, history and societal views.
A poll conducted this week by Politico found that 50% did not agree with the Supreme Court’s pending decision. Among Democrats, 68% said Roe v Wade should stand, while 52% of independents and 51% of Republicans agreed. The results of a UT poll of Texas voters found that 78% of respondents believe abortion should be allowed in some form while only 15% said it should be never allowed.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote. “Even though the Constitution makes no mention of Abortion, the Court held that it confers a broad right to one.”
In Casey, justices writing the majority opinion, encouraged opposing sides of a national controversy to “end their national division by treating the Court’s decision as the final settlement of the question relating to the constitutional right to an abortion.”
At that point women were granted autonomy over their own bodies. But the Court’s precedent failed to end the controversy. Fueled largely by conservative evangelicals, arguments about abortion continued. Sometimes they resulted in violence. Taking a life to protect an unviable fetus defies logic. Killing is not “pro-life”!
Kathleen Brown, an attorney from Wichita Falls and a candidate for congress, is concerned about the ruling’s impact on our legal system. She said, “I don’t know how to advise clients in the wake of Alito’s comments. Precedents provide a foundation and construct for our laws. If this one goes out the window, what follows? Our legal system could be thrown into chaos.”
A strict constructionist view of the Constitution as worded in Alito’s draft voids all precedents. His view could eliminate every “right” not enumerated in our nation’s guiding document. And that’s frightening.
A sustained war over laws related to privacy and individual autonomy is likely. Women and men began protesting the day after the Alito’s draft became public. A National Day of Action is planned for May 14, and includes an event in Amarillo. The next battles may include restrictions on birth control, interracial marriage and same sex unions.
I think there’s ample Constitutional argument to protect a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. Keep in mind that the Constitution was written by white men, to apply to other white men. But today “We the People” obviously includes ALL of us. I believe the phrase “…secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” implies personal autonomy. Without the right to make personal choices, freedom cannot truly exist.
Then there’s the Ninth Amendment, often overlooked, but a part of the Bill of Rights. It addresses rights, retained by the people, but not specifically enumerated. The amendment was introduced when some of the founders became concerned that future generations might argue that if a certain right was not listed in the Bill of Rights, it did not exist. Prophetic, perhaps?
If this opinion stands it will immediately trigger a flood of state laws. Many, like the one here in Texas, forbid abortions after 15 weeks. They callously fail to make exceptions for rape or incest. Most egregiously, the Texas law offers bounties for reporting anyone who has or aids in an abortion. This smacks of autocratic regimes when people informed on neighbors, friends and family members. Are we willing to follow an example set by tyrants?
I’m not. And I’ll use every tool available to fight for “liberty and justice for all” and a woman’s right to choose.
Kathie C. Greer is a former editorial writer for the Amarillo Globe-News, and a published author with more than four decades of writing experience.
This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: Kathie Greer Roe v Wade decision places US on a slippery slope