Tuesday Reads: The End of Roe?

Illustration by Victor Juhasz

Illustration by Victor Juhasz

Good Morning!!

Today I want to follow up on what Daknikat wrote yesterday about the Supreme Court and abortion rights. Thanks to all the Bernie Bros and Hillary Haters, we ended up with Donald Trump in 2016, and he was able to appoint three right wing nuts to the Supreme Court.

We could have had the first woman president, and she could have nominated three liberals to the court. But misogyny and anti-Clinton propaganda won Trump enough electoral votes to take the White House even though he lost the popular vote. Now women will face the consequences.

 

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Supreme Court Is Taking Direct Aim at Roe v. Wade.

On Monday morning, the Supreme Court announced that it will reconsider the constitutional prohibition against abortion bans before fetal viability. This decision indicates that the ultra-conservative five-justice majority is prepared to move aggressively against Roe v. Wade rather than tinker around the edges of abortion rights. The court will take on state laws that seek to outlaw abortion at early—and perhaps all—stages of pregnancy. It seems likely that the justices took this case for the express purpose of overturning Roe and allowing the government to enact draconian abortion bans that have been unconstitutional for nearly half a century.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that SCOTUS took up on Monday, is not a subtle threat to Roe. It is, rather, a direct challenge to decades of pro-choice precedent. In 2018, Mississippi passed a law forbidding abortions after 15 weeks. This measure had two purposes: to restrict abortion, yes, but also to contest Supreme Court precedent protecting abortion rights. In Roe and later decisions—most notably Planned Parenthood v. Casey—the Supreme Court held that the Constitution forbids bans on abortion before the fetus has achieved viability. Since there is no doubt that, at 15 weeks, a fetus is not viable, even with the most heroic medical interventions, Mississippi’s law was clearly designed as a vehicle to let SCOTUS reevaluate (and reverse) Roe.

The lower courts understood this plan. Judge James Ho, a very conservative Donald Trump nominee, all but endorsed it when the case came before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Ho urged the Supreme Court to overturn Roe—while acknowledging that, as a lower court judge bound by precedent, he could not uphold Mississippi’s abortion ban. Now the justices have vindicated Ho by accepting Mississippi’s invitation. (The court will hear arguments in the case next fall and issue a decision by the summer of 2022.) It is not difficult to guess what will happen next. But it is worth pointing out three reasons why the Supreme Court appears poised to seize upon Dobbs to eviscerate the constitutional right to abortion.

How do we know the conservatives on the Court are planning to reverse Roe v. Wade?

First, there is no split between the lower courts on the question presented in Dobbs. The Supreme Court typically takes up cases that have divided courts of appeals so the justices can provide a definitive answer that applies nationwide. Here, however, no court has claimed that, under current precedent, a state may outlaw abortions at 15 weeks. Even Ho had to admit that binding precedent “establishes viability as the governing constitutional standard.” There is no reason for the Supreme Court to hear Dobbs unless it wants to abolish this standard, which has been the law of the land for almost 50 years.

Abortion by Anil Keshari

Abortion by Anil Keshari

Second, Mississippi gave the justices several options for a more limited ruling; its petition to the court included a question that would’ve let the court modify the standard for abortion restrictions without overtly killing off Roe. But the justices rejected that alternative and agreed to consider the central question in the case: “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”

This action suggests that the conservative majority is no longer interested in gradually eroding abortion rights until they are, in reality, nonexistent….

Third, and relatedly, Barrett’s impact on this case cannot be understated. Just last summer, the Supreme Court struck down laws targeting abortion clinics in Louisiana by a 5–4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberals (with qualifications) to affirm the bottom-line rule that states may not place an “undue burden” on the right to abortion before viability. Less than three months later, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, and Trump put Barrett—a foe of abortion rights—in her seat. By doing so, Trump shored up a far-right five-justice majority that, by all appearances, is committed to ending Roe.

Greg Stohr of Bloomberg via The Washington Post: 

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard multiple cases in recent years from states trying to narrow the right to have an abortion, one of the nation’s most contentious issues. The next case is more sweeping than most. With its newly strengthened conservative majority in place, the court has agreed to hear Mississippi’s bid to ban abortion in almost all cases after 15 weeks of pregnancy. That could mean overturning, or at least gutting, the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide….

The Roe v. Wade decision established that the decision to terminate a pregnancy was a woman’s choice to make in the first trimester, and that the state could regulate abortions only later. In the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case in 1992, the Supreme Court revisited the timing issue, saying women have the right to abortion without undue interference before a fetus is viable — that is, capable of living outside the womb. The court didn’t pinpoint when viability occurs but suggested it was around 23 or 24 weeks. In 2018, the Mississippi legislature voted to outlaw most abortions after 15 weeks. The ban, which makes exceptions only in cases of severe fetal abnormality or major health risk to the mother, was challenged by the state’s only abortion facility, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and deemed unconstitutional by a federal district judge and federal appeals court. The state of Mississippi appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that viability is “not an appropriate standard for assessing the constitutionality” of abortion laws….

From Ireland--Detail from a marching banner for the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment Banner, by Alice Maher, Rachel Fallon and Breda Mayock. Photograph by Alison Laredo, Courtesy the artists

From Ireland–Detail from a marching banner for the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment Banner, by Alice Maher, Rachel Fallon and Breda Mayock. Photograph by Alison Laredo, Courtesy the artists

Three appointments to the court made by Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, have given it a 6-3 conservative majority. And Trump’s last two appointees, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, replaced justices who supported the core right to abortion. If Kavanaugh and Barrett are willing to back Mississippi, abortion opponents might not even need the vote of the sixth conservative, Chief Justice John Roberts….

A decision throwing out the 1992 viability standard could immediately mean tighter abortion restrictions in a number of states. The Guttmacher Institute, which monitors and advocates for abortion rights, counts 16 states that have attempted to ban at least some abortions before viability but have been stopped by a court order.

Leah Litman and Melissa Murray at The Washington Post: Opinion: The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority is about to show us its true colors.

On Monday morning, the court agreed to hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy — a case that poses a direct attack on the constitutional right to abortion.

The decision to take the case was unsurprising. President Donald Trump vowed to appoint justices who would overrule Roe v. Wadethe 1973 decision holding that women have a constitutional right to obtain abortions. With Trump’s three historic appointments to the high court, all that opponents of Roe needed was the right vehicle. The Mississippi case gives them just that. It will be heard in the court’s term beginning in October….

It would not be unthinkable for this Supreme Court to use the Mississippi case to jettison Roe and Casey. Although stare decisis and its principle of respect for settled precedents has long been a hallmark of U.S. law, this court has in recent years refused to be bound by established precedents.

Last year, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, two of Trump’s appointees, cast votes to overrule a case that had invalidated a pair of abortion restrictions. The term before that, in another case, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the court was duty-bound to overrule precedents that were “demonstrably erroneous.” In other writings, he has railed against Roe and Casey as perversions of constitutional law. And the court’s newest member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, has, in her academic writing, indicated that she shares Thomas’s ideas about precedents and abortion rights.

Untitled No. 5, Abortion Series, 1998, Paula Rego

Untitled No. 5, Abortion Series, 1998, Paula Rego

Even in cases where the court has not overruled past decisions, it has gone to herculean lengths to limit prior cases, broadly refashioning entire areas of law without explicitly overruling the decisions undergirding those doctrines. And this approach might be what lies ahead for abortion.

Rather than overruling Roe and Casey, the court might say that viability is no longer a meaningful marker for determining when a state may restrict a woman’s right to choose — a decision that would be as consequential as scuttling Roe itself. It could allow states to restrict access to abortion at any point during pregnancy, sharply curtailing reproductive rights as lower courts reconsider the constitutionality of bans on abortion after 12 weeks, 10 weeks or six weeks of pregnancy. Under Roe and Casey, courts easily found all such laws unconstitutional because they prohibited abortions before viability. If the court erases viability’s significance, many abortion restrictions once easily struck down will pose more difficult questions for reviewing courts.

Read the whole thing at the WaPo.

According to The New York Times, anti-abortion activists are celebrating: ‘A Great Sense of Inspiration’: Anti-Abortion Activists Express Optimism.

Anti-abortion activists across the country expressed optimism on Monday that they might be on the cusp of achieving a long-held goal of the movement: overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that extended federal protections for abortion.

The Supreme Court announced on Monday morning that it would consider in its next term a case from Mississippi that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, with narrow exceptions….

It is the first abortion case under the court’s new 6-3 conservative majority, and activists expressed hope that this case would be the one to remove federal protections for the procedure. Such a ruling would give the right to regulate abortions at any point in pregnancy back to the states, many of which in the South and Midwest have imposed tough restrictions.

“There’s a great sense of inspiration across the country right now,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “This is the best court we’ve had in my lifetime, and we hope and pray that this is the case to do it.”

In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-abortion organization, called the court’s move “a landmark opportunity to recognize the right of states to protect unborn children,” and noted that state legislatures have introduced hundreds of bills restricting abortion in this legislative season.

At The Daily Beast, Emily Shugerman writes that Biden is being criticized for not doing enough to protect abortion rights: Abortion Is on SCOTUS’ Radar—and Biden Is Getting Heat.

Abortions rights advocates cheered when Joe Biden was elected, heralding his win as a “seismic shift” and a “welcome change.” Now, with the nationwide right to an abortion on the line, they’re getting a little impatient.

After Abortion, by Zois Shuttie

After Abortion, by Zois Shuttie

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would take on a Mississippi case that has the potential to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision making abortion legal across the country. If that happens, nearly half of the U.S. would move to prohibit the procedure, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Advocates see the decision to take on the case as a massive threat to abortion rights—and one Biden may not be taking seriously enough.

“He turned his back on people who have abortions as soon as he got into office,” said Renee Bracey Sherman, executive director of the abortion advocacy group We Testify. “What happened this morning at the Supreme Court is what happens when you turn your backs on us and ignore the restrictions we’re facing every single day.”

Pressure on Biden to act more decisively began mounting April 29, when more than 140 organizations called on the administration to prioritize changes to U.S. sexual and reproductive rights law recommended by the United Nations. The day before, nearly 60 women’s rights organizations—including Planned Parenthood and NARAL, which spent tens of millions of dollars to help elect the president—sent a letter to the administration asking them to increase funding for abortion and remove “unnecessary barriers” to access.

“The Biden-Harris administration and Congressional leadership must prioritize these policies for women and women of color,” they wrote, in a letter calling for multiple changes on behalf of American women. “We need to build back better for women and create lasting political, social and economic change.”

Click the link to read the rest.

There is much more news, and I’ll post more links in the comment thread, but to me this is the biggest issue right now. Women are on the verge of losing the rights we have been fighting for since the late 1960s. 

As always, treat this as an open thread.