How Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have the last laugh on Samuel Alito | Latest News Headlines

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Judge Samuel Alito, drafting Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, said he and the other justices who joined him in ending a constitutional right to abortion had no ability to foresee what the political implications would be. Even if they could know, he added, judges have “no authority to let that knowledge influence our decision.”

Does Alito genuinely write his opinions without caring at all about what the practical political consequences might be?

By overturning Roe v. Wade, a decision he called “grossly flawed”, Alito claimed that the place to decide the morality and legality of abortion is not the Supreme Court but the political process in 50 states.

So what does Alito think now, in the wake of Kansas voters’ resounding rejection of a proposal to remove abortion rights protections from their state’s constitution?

These are not silly questions. Alito would presumably respond that what happened in Kansas on Tuesday is precisely the kind of democratic process that the Supreme Court “short-circuited,” as he wrote in Dobbswhen he established a national right to abortion by judicial decree even as the issue remained deeply unresolved in society.

These are questions, however, that underscore just how full of surprises and paradoxes life is, even for a Supreme Court justice specializing in bluster insurance. Alito’s career as an advocate of social conservatism began long before he joined the court. His record is filled with respect for religious tradition and skepticism about the relaxation of sexual mores on all fronts, including gay rights. His references to “abortions” in the Dobbs public opinion barely hides its personal disdain. There is little doubt how he would have voted had he been a Kansas voter.

Yet the Kansas result raises a stark possibility: Alito’s long-term legacy may well be that of the justice that facilitated national consensus on behalf of abortion rights. Quite unwittingly, the current hero of the “pro-life” movement could end up being a giant of the “pro-choice” movement.

Alito’s achievement has been to lift abortion from the arena it has been in for half a century – a place where aggrieved advocates on both sides have invoked a hypothetical world in which abortion is no longer legal – and move it into a decidedly real arena. In this new environment, all sorts of people who, under ordinary circumstances, would prefer not to have to think about and discuss abortion must decide which side they are on.

There are good reasons to be wary of the old maxim of Fleet Street journalism – first simplify, then exaggerate – in some of the post-Kansas analyses. The impact of abortion policy on the midterm elections remains murky. In most cases, voters will choose among the candidates and not decide on a properly framed referendum. Also, while Kansas is undoubtedly conservative, it’s also a state with a Democratic governor and isn’t necessarily predictive of the dynamics in conservative states with abortion bans that took place immediately after the June Supreme Court decision.

But while the Kansas outcome isn’t necessarily a harbinger of 2022 politics, it is evocative of 2032 politics. national of the problem. in favor of abortion rights, even in states that do not currently support it. It is difficult to imagine the opposite result.

The difference lies in the gap between abstract politics and concrete politics. It’s the same dynamic that makes Social Security popular among people who claim to despise big government. The Kansas result, which mirrors polls showing strong majorities of people in favor of leaving Roe vs. Wade intact, suggests that opponents of legal abortion do better when the prospect of an abortion ban is hypothetical, while proponents of abortion rights do better when the problem is actually real.

Values ​​take on meaning not in the abstract but in the particular. What do you really believe when it’s your teenage child who is pregnant or got someone pregnant? Or your extramarital affair that ended in pregnancy? Or your obstetrician calling to say she has some unfortunate news about the results of a genetic test?

Fortunately, most people don’t learn what they really believe by finding themselves in such a situation. But many people – of all political persuasions – are learning. The Guttmacher Institute, which conducts research on abortion policy, found that about one in five pregnancies in 2020 ended in abortion. In an earlier study, from 2017, he found that about one in four women will have an abortion before the age of 45.

Is this number surprising? As long as abortion was a legal right, many of these women and their partners were probably driven by many other political issues. The question now is what changed, and Kansas suggests an answer.

Even many abortion rights advocates acknowledge that there is some truth to what Alito repeatedly asserted in his op-ed: that the court hindered, rather than helped, a national resolution of the abortion issue. Somewhat quizzically, Dobbs opinion cited a 1992 speech by one of the most prominent proponents of abortion rights, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who deer “stopped a political process that was moving in the direction of reform and thereby, I thought, prolonged the division and delayed the stable settlement of the issue.”

It was as if Alito was making a joke in memory of Ginsberg by quoting her. It seems quite likely that she will eventually have the last laugh.


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