At last. It has taken 49 years and five months, but the Supreme Court has finally reversed the monstrous injustice it worked in 1973.
In Roe v. Wade, seven justices cast aside the laws of every state protecting unborn children from the violence of abortion, even though nothing in the text, original understanding, or history of the Constitution authorized them to do so. It was an act of “raw judicial power,” as a Democratic justice wrote in dissent, and even law professors who approved the abortion license Roe created assailed the decision for lacking any constitutional base.
Decades of work, the efforts of tens of millions of Americans, and persistence through many disappointments were necessary to bring us to this day of correction. Overturning Roe does not guarantee justice for the unborn: Pro-lifers know the work must continue.
What the Court has done is give pro-lifers the chance to make their case and prevail in democratic fora. Our fundamental law will no longer effectively treat unborn children as categorically excluded from the most basic protection that law can provide.
It is a mighty step forward for the rule of law, self-government, and justice.
Thirteen states already had so-called trigger laws designed to make terminating a pregnancy illegal almost as soon as Roe fell. By Friday evening, nine states had outlawed abortion, according to The New York Times.
Friday’s ruling had been anticipated since early May, when Politico published a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito overturning Roe. The final version did not differ significantly from that draft, yet the announcement delivered an enormous detonation that reverberated across the nation and the world.
Liberals suffered a devastating defeat with the striking down of Roe.
In the immediate aftermath of the decision, there was talk of expanding the court or abolishing the Senate filibuster in order to enshrine Roe’s protections.
But even as liberals grapple with the loss of a right that has existed for half a century, they are also holding out hope of an electoral silver lining in November’s midterm elections and beyond.
“Voters need to make their voices heard this fall,” President Biden said at the White House on Friday, responding to the decision. “They must elect more senators and representatives who will codify women’s right to choose into federal law.”
“A woman’s right to choose — reproductive rights — is on the ballot in November,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a news conference soon after the decision was announced.
Democrats are facing a plethora of problems in November, including inflation, high gas prices, pandemic fatigue and record high levels of unauthorized migration at the southern border.
Could the seismic blow to abortion rights galvanize liberal-leaning women, in particular, to come out for Democrats in November?
It’s not certain, but it’s plausible.
One test will be whether Democrats do better than expected in states where abortion is illegal or on the brink of being made so.
Arizona, Georgia, Ohio and Wisconsin — all of which have competitive Senate races this fall — are on the Guttmacher Institute’s list of states “certain or likely” to ban abortion in a post-Roe America. Guttmacher is a research organization that favors abortion rights.
The split-screen reactions to the court’s verdict could hardly have been more dramatic.
While supporters of abortion rights responded in anger and horror, conservatives celebrated a victory for which they had worked for half a century.
“A grievous wrong was righted,” Penny Nance, the president of Concerned Women for America, told The New York Times.
“Today the ability to determine whether and when to limit abortion was returned to the American people,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, in a statement.
The pro-life movement has waged its battle in states and in lower courts. It has also maintained its efforts despite grave disappointment in post-Roe cases that upheld the right to abortion, most notably 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
On the biggest question of all, the pro-life movement has now prevailed.
Many of its activists on Friday promised to confine their fight, this time in pursuit of a nationwide ban on abortion.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has deep roots on the religious right and could be a GOP presidential contender in 2024, was among those declaring his support for this goal.
Biden urged in his Friday remarks that any protests should be “peaceful, peaceful, peaceful.” He has good reason to urge calm.
Two days previously, a 26-year-old man had appeared in court charged with the attempted murder of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The man, Nicholas Roske, had been arrested close to Kavanaugh’s home two weeks previously while armed. Prosecutors claim Roske said he was upset about the draft opinion presaging the end of Roe, among other things.
The initial protests at the Supreme Court were boisterous but peaceful.
But a nation already frayed by polarization and incendiary political rhetoric is now facing into a long stretch where tensions threaten to boil even more violently.
Our fellow citizens who reject the right to life for all human beings, tragically misguided as they are, have the right to protest against the Supreme Court’s decision. They have no right to threaten, intimidate, vandalize, or commit acts of violence.
One of the worst causes in American history — the defense of a judicially imposed regime of abortion-on-demand — appears likely to end in further disgrace. The Biden administration will be derelict in its duties if it fails to keep the peace.
The pro-life goal has been to make sure that unborn children are protected in law and welcomed in life. Our tactics in advancing that goal will have to adapt to the happy new circumstances.
In legislatures in strongly pro-life areas, that should mean new laws that prohibit doctors from committing elective abortions and carry penalties sufficient to make that protection effective. In other places, it should mean as much protection as the political balance of forces will allow — and a commitment to do the work of persuasion needed to tilt that balance further toward justice.
Everywhere, it should mean private and public efforts to support women bringing life into the world.
The Supreme Court’s cruel decision in 1973 has been complicit in the killing of scores of millions of innocents. It has warped our law, our politics, our medicine, coarsened our social fabric, hardened our hearts.