About three decades ago, an obstetrician and gynecologist named Shalom Press delivered my first child at Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. My regular doctor was away, and while I didn’t know his substitute, the birth of my son went smoothly. Afterward, I was far too busy to give any significant thought to exactly who brought him into the world.
But I had reason to think about Dr. Press a great deal several years later, when Buffalo, a longtime abortion battleground, erupted into chaos. By 1998, I was the managing editor of the Buffalo News when another local OB/GYN, Barnett Slepian, was murdered in his own home by an antiabortion extremist, James Kopp; in 2002, Kopp made a jailhouse confession to two of our reporters.
In the aftermath, Dr. Press became one of the last Buffalo-area doctors willing to withstand the public pressure and continue performing abortions. At one point, protesters invaded his office and chained themselves together with bicycle locks; at another, local police informed him that a Canadian newspaper had received an anonymous warning that he was “next on the list.” These experiences were both alarming and eye-opening for Press’s son, Eyal.
“One of the great successes of the antiabortion movement was to stigmatize a very common medical procedure,” he told me this week, “and to put people who defend abortion rights on the defensive.”
And part of that, he thinks, lies in the power of language — and a failure of media.
An award-winning journalist and author, Eyal Press knows a thing or two about how words can be deployed, or weaponized. When journalists agreed to accept terms such as “pro-life” to describe those who oppose abortion, they implicitly agreed to help stigmatize those who support it. After all, what’s the rhetorical opposite of “pro-life”?
Press — whose 2006 book “Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City, and the Conflict that Divided America” was lauded by the New York Times for “bringing light to a political issue that for far too long has generated nothing but blistering heat” — told me that the media shares some of the blame, inadvertent though it may have been, for ushering our nation to its current moment.
Thursday Reads: Day 4 of Shock and DisbeliefPosted: May 5, 2022
Today is day four since we got the news from Politico on Sunday night that 5 Supreme Court justices have signed on to a draft opinion by Samuel Alito that would overturn Roe v. Wade and could impact multiple individual rights decisions based on the right of privacy. The sense of shock and disbelief hasn’t worn off for me; in fact, it has only gotten stronger each passing day. I know I’m not alone.
Yvonne Abraham at The Boston Globe: Alito’s hall-of-mirrors opinion on Roe reveals the GOP’s death spiral. Abortion rights and democracy fall together.
It has been a few days since Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s hall-of-mirrors opinion seeking to overturn Roe v Wade was leaked. But for those of us who support abortion rights, it will be a long time before the shock subsides, if it ever does.
We all knew something likethis was coming: Republicans’ machinations over the last few years left no doubt that one day soonwe’d arrive at the moment when the nation’s highest court would overturn the 50-year-old precedent….
But Alito’s decision – just a draft, the chief justice reminds us, but let’s get real here – is so expansive that his reasoning (if one can call it that) imperils other rights as well. As others have pointed out, Alito’s very restrictive interpretation of the 14th Amendment means other hard-won rights, including same-sex marriage, are now threatened….
Of all the spurious and outrageous assertions Alito makes in a ruling that would strip away the rights and safety of millions of citizens, one is especially galling.
Washing his hands of the consequences of the decision, Alito claims that abortion is now a matter for the voters – women voters, he says, as if they’re the only ones affected by pregnancies, planned and otherwise – to resolve. Turning the issue of abortion back to the states, half of which would outlaw it almost immediately, “allows women on both sides of the abortion issue to seek to affect the legislative process by influencing public opinion, lobbying legislators, voting and running for office. Women are not without electoral or political power.”
Oh of course, elections will help settle the question of whether women who can’t afford to travel will now be forced to give birth, even if their pregnancies result from rape.
Why didn’t we think of that? Oh yeah, we did!
It takes a lot of nerve for Alito to call democracy the solution here, given how his GOP – his very bench – has been making a mockery of it for years. He and his colleagues have opened the door for virtually unlimited monetary influence in elections and destroyed the Voting Rights Act. One of his colleagues sits in a seat Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell stole from a Democratic president, refusing to consider Barack Obama’s nominee during an election year. McConnell then installed an anti-abortion zealot after voting began in the next election.
The strongly worded legal language used in the draft Supreme Court opinion that appears to overturn nearly 50-year-old abortion-rights protections could provoke conservative efforts to enact a universal, nationwide abortion ban, according to legal and policy analysts on both sides of the political debate. They say the case has already galvanized advocates who want a federal law criminalizing abortion….
But the legal arguments cited in Alito’s opinion could give political momentum to efforts to enact a federal abortion ban similar to what Mississippi enacted — or, potentially, even more restrictive — on the grounds the fetus is an unborn human being with its own rights. Attempts to pass a federal ban have been proposed before but always failed under the protections of Roe v. Wade.
In his ruling, Alito argues a woman has no constitutional rights to an abortion and suggests that fetuses deserve protection. A federal ban based on the ruling could set up legal challenges of state laws that protect an individual’s right to decide. Massachusetts’ Constitution grants far broader legal rights than the federal Constitution allows, say legal observers, who point out the state was the first to legalize same-sex marriage. But federal law trumps state law.
“The court ruling signals to those in Congress that it’s providing a blueprint for those who want to take away the reproductive rights of all people,” said Carol Rose, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Massachusetts. “It suggests Justice Alito is providing something of a legal road map for people trying to criminalize abortion.” [….]
Harvard legal scholar Laurence Tribe wrote on Twitter: “If the Alito opinion savaging [the Roe decision and similar cases] ends up being the opinion of the court, it will unravel many basic rights beyond abortion and will go further than returning the issue to the states: It will enable a GOP Congress to enact a nationwide ban on abortion and contraception.” Tribe added, “Predictable next steps after the Alito opinion becomes law: a nationwide abortion ban, followed by a push to roll back rights to contraception, same-sex marriage, sexual privacy, and the full array of textually un-enumerated rights long taken for granted.”
…Alito appears to refer to fetuses as human beings as a matter of traditional and common law and refers to a fetus as an “unborn human being,” which could give constitutional rights and protections to the fetus and set up legal challenges of state laws that do protect abortions. He refers to a fetus as being destroyed by abortion rights. Rose said the opinion fails to discuss the viability of a fetus. “They don’t distinguish whether you’re pregnant for one day or 24 weeks,” she said.
It appears that Alito is feeling the pressure of public opinion now, even though he claims it doesn’t matter. Reuters: EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Supreme Court’s Alito cancels conference appearance after abortion ruling leak.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has canceled an appearance at a judicial conference set to begin on Thursday after a draft decision he wrote indicating the high court would overturn its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed the right to abortion nationwide was leaked.
Alito had been set to appear at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ judicial conference, a gathering of judges from the New Orleans-based federal appeals court and the district courts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, a person familiar with the matter said.
But he has since canceled, the person said, and Patricia McCabe, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court, on Wednesday said he was not attending. The spokesperson gave no reason for why Alito, who is the justice assigned to hear emergency appeals from the 5th Circuit, was not going.
Alito and Clarence Thomas have another appearance scheduled:
Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas were slated to speak separately on Thursday and Friday at the 11th Circuit’s judicial conference in Atlanta, according to an event program.
It was unclear if they would still attend. McCabe referred inquiries about their scheduled appearances to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which did not respond to requests for comment late Wednesday.
Here’s a terrifying example of the ways in which this opinion could be applied to other issues. Austin-American Statesman: Abbott says Texas could ‘resurrect’ SCOTUS case requiring states to educate all kids.
Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that Texas would consider challenging a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring states to offer free public education to all children, including those of undocumented immigrants.
“Texas already long ago sued the federal government about having to incur the costs of the education program, in a case called Plyler versus Doe,” Abbott said, speaking during an appearance on the Joe Pags show, a conservative radio talk show. “And the Supreme Court ruled against us on the issue. …
I think we will resurrect that case and challenge this issue again, because the expenses are extraordinary and the times are different than when Plyler versus Doe was issued many decades ago.”
The remarks came days after a leaked draft of a forthcoming U.S. Supreme Court opinion revealed that a majority of justices are poised to revoke Roe v. Wade, the landmark case establishing the right to abortion….
Abbott raised the possibility of challenging the ruling on education during a discussion about border security, after Pagliarulo asked whether the state could take steps to reduce the “burden” of educating the children of undocumented migrants living in Texas.
More horrors from Greg Hilburn at Lafayette, LA’s The Daily Advertiser: ‘We can’t wait on the Supreme Court’: In Louisiana, abortion could become a crime of murder.
A Louisiana legislative committee on Wednesday advanced a bill to make abortion a crime of homicide in which the mother or those assisting her in terminating the pregnancy can be charged.
The measure cleared the House Appropriations Committee on a 7-2 vote despite at least one of the representatives voting in favor acknowledging the bill is unconstitutional.
Rep. Danny McCormick said his House Bill 813 should move forward even though the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to overturn Roe v. Wade that guarantees abortion rights as soon as June, according to an opinion leaked from the high court this week.
“We can’t wait on the Supreme Court,” said McCormick, a Republican from Oil City.
McCormick’s bill says the unborn should be protected at fertilization.
He said the Rev. Brian Gunter of First Baptist Church in Livingston helped author the bill.
A powerful piece from media critic Margaret Sullivan at The Washington Post: The media fell for ‘pro-life’ rhetoric — and helped create this mess.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
More articles on abortion in the aftermath of the SCOTUS leak:
William Saletan at The Bulwark: The Politics of Overturning Roe Are Bad for Republicans.
Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Why the Supreme Court’s Leak Investigation Is a Sham.
Jennifer Scheussler at The Washington Post: The Fight Over Abortion History.
The New York Times: Abortion Pills Stand to Become the Next Battleground in a Post-Roe America.
For me, this is the only story right now, but feel free to discuss any topics in the comment thread.