Last week, the Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to political conservatives on the abortion issue. It’s not the first time they’ve done so, and it likely won’t be the last.
This article is an Op-ed. The viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Evie Magazine.
The June Medical Services v. Russo ruling affected a Louisiana law that would have required abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals. The law likely would have wiped out almost all the state’s abortion practices.
Four of the five Republican-appointed justices dissented from the ruling, arguing the law should be upheld. But the fifth Republican appointee, Chief Justice John Roberts, joined the four Democrat-appointed justices to toss out the law, citing his deference to a legal precedent out of Texas from 2016.
Republican justices and elected officials continuously fail to protect the right to life.
Roberts’s decision was the latest in a nearly 50-year series of Republican maneuvers around the abortion issue since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Even when Republican voters think their side has gained the upper hand, their justices and elected officials continuously fail to protect the right to life.
Why Won’t Congress Do Something?
Theoretically, members of Congress could propose a national abortion ban, without the court first overturning the Roe v. Wade precedent.
But getting a national abortion ban to stick would require Republicans to basically control every branch of government. If the House or Senate won’t pass the bill, or if the President won’t sign it, or if the Supreme Court won’t uphold it when it’s challenged in court, the legislation will fail.
And it’s not often that one party controls all three branches of government. Since 1973, it has only occurred twice: once between 2001 and 2007 (with a few interruptions), during George W. Bush’s presidency, and again after Trump-appointee Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Nearly 50 years have passed since Roe, and Republicans have little abortion legislation to show for it.
As a result, nearly 50 years have passed since Roe, and Republicans have little abortion legislation to show for it. Exhibit A was a Bush-era law that banned partial-birth abortions. But those procedures made up fewer than one in 250 abortions, and even now, abortion doctors skirt around the law by ensuring the baby is already dead before performing the removal procedure.
In addition, Senate Republicans attempted to pass two abortion restrictions earlier this year, both of which were stalled by Democrats.
Do Republican Lawmakers Even Want Abortion To Go Away?
Abortion is a top issue for many Republican voters. Exit polls show that the voters who name abortion as their top issue are more likely to be pro-life. This means that even though pro-choicers outnumber pro-lifers, the pro-life cohort is more committed to the issue.
That makes the abortion issue a convenient one for Republican lawmakers. They can rail against the Supreme Court all they want without putting serious effort into the cause. All that matters is that their dedicated cohort of Evangelical and Catholic moms shows up on election day.
All that matters is that the Republicans’ dedicated cohort of Evangelical and Catholic moms vote.
Certainly not all Republican lawmakers are so disingenuous. But for many, the temptation is real. If Republicans accomplish one of their biggest and most long-standing campaign objectives, they might struggle to turn out Republican voters in future elections.
Still, state lawmakers do deserve some credit for their abortion-ban efforts. After President Trump added Brett Kavanaugh to the court, 12 states passed 27 abortion bans between January and May in 2019. But just like Congress, states run the risk of having their abortion restrictions struck down in court as long as Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land.
The Supreme Court’s Republican Appointees Are the Real Problem
Republican Justices’ blunders on the abortion issue date all the way back to Roe v. Wade. In fact, Republicans are the reason Roe was established in the first place. In the 7-2 decision, not one or two, but five Republican-appointed justices decided that the U.S. Constitution supports abortion rights.
Then in 1992, when the court was made up of eight Republican-appointed justices, the court handed down Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Even though the case gave the court a prime opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade, Republican justices further calcified the abortion rights precedent into place.
Republicans clearly could have overturned Roe if they had wanted to do so.
The situation turns even more ridiculous when you look at the number of justices Republicans have appointed over the past 50 years: a total of 13 since 1969, and nearly half of them replacing former Democrat appointees. Democrats during the same timeframe have appointed only four new justices. Republicans clearly could have overturned Roe if they had wanted to do so.
That brings us to last month’s Louisiana decision. After Roberts issued surprising opinions in that case and two others, he effectively re-defined himself as the Supreme Court’s swing vote.
This means that Republicans, after 50 years, still don’t have a dependable conservative majority on the Supreme Court. An abortion victory isn’t coming anytime soon.
Is Legal Precedent Worth More Than Life?
Republicans won’t solve the abortion issue as long as their Supreme Court justices continue to display an overzealous respect for legal precedent. Roberts demonstrated this motivation clearly in his abortion decision last month — even though he had voted to throw out the Texas law that serves as legal precedent, he now upholds the Louisiana law, in the name of preserving the integrity of the court.
If any issue is worth surrendering some of the court’s integrity, it’s this one.
I can understand why Roberts, as chief justice, feels the need to maintain an even-tempered court. Imagine the instability of a nation that lurches violently back and forth every time a new justice is appointed or a new party gains the upper hand. Americans need to be able to have faith in the rule of law.
But here’s my question for Roberts: Is it more just to maintain the integrity of the court or to overturn a precedent that violates the right to life — a right that’s laid out, not in some obscure or amorphous statute, but in our nation’s very Constitution?
The Supreme Court has overturned many precedents in the past; this wouldn’t be the first time it would be required to surrender a bit of its integrity or continuity. And if any issue is worth surrendering some of that continuity — it’s this one.
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