We won’t know until the Supreme Court announces in June or July its final verdict on the fate of Roe v. Wade. But this much we know now: The Supreme Court has irreparably defiled its standing as a tripartite branch of our constitutionally constructed democracy, Now, the trifecta is complete. The legislative and executive branches have already been so compromised that many Americans no longer trust either to do the right thing. Now the so-called high court has demonstrated that it cannot be counted on to render justice to the law or the constitution – whatever its final decision on Roe v. Wade.
It’s easy to blame Donald Trump, considering that all three associate justices he nominated are among the five expected to annihilate women’s reproductive autonomy. But without Republican co-conspirators, Trump would have failed to deliver on the campaign promise that, with assists from FBI and Russian meddling, won him an Electoral College victory in 2016. As for Roe v. Wade, the man who called breastfeeding women “disgusting,” once held a pro-choice fundraiser before adopting strident anti-abortion rhetoric in going for the Republican presidential nomination. The origins of the bitter fight over women’s right to choose go as far back as the 1973 decision itself, a ruling for Jane Roe (aka Norma McCorvey) by a court, like the current one, tilted 6-3 in favor of Republican-nominated justices. Harry Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion, was appointed by President Richard Nixon. Chief Justice Warren Burger, also a Nixon appointee, joined in the majority opinion. Byron White, nominated by President John F. Kennedy, dissented in the 7-2 decision.
So much for the subsequent anti-abortion lie of the last 49 years that Roe v. Wade was a result of an activist left-leaning Supreme Court packed by Democratic socialist presidents. A bipartisan court made it the law of the land and the precedent was substantially upheld in the bipartisan 1992 Casey decision. And today, polls show that a vast majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose.
Yet the current Supreme Court, also tilting 6-3 toward Republican-nominated justices, appears poised to chuck it all in favor of the majority’s personal beliefs – political and/or religious – over legal justification. (Six of the nine justices are Catholic, though two of those seem to be aligned with upholding at least some right to choose.)
The wild card here was played early in 2016 by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell following the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13. More than 11 months remained in the term-limited presidency of Barack Obama and just short of 10 months before the election of his successor. McConnell, overstepping his authority by any constitutional measure, argued that no president can nominate a Supreme Court justice in an election year. My personal opinion was that Obama should have aggressively confronted McConnell by directly appointing his nominee, Merrick Garland, to the court on the grounds that the Senate abdicated its advise-and-consent constitutional responsibility by denying Garland even a hearing. But doing so would have risked complicating the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, widely expected to win the election until FBI director James Comey’s last-minute reopening of the email case he’d already decided in Clinton’s favor.
Combine that with McConnell’s naked about-face after the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, rushing through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett BARELY A WEEK before the election that would evict Trump from the White House, regardless of his fact-free denial of defeat. Talk about a lame-duck appointee. McConnell’s duplicitous disregard for presidential authority in the nomination of Supreme Court justices has politicized every subsequent decision of this gerrymandered court to the point of a right-wing fix.
I have no faith, nor should any American, in the integrity of a Senate with McConnell as majority leader. Just as he said of Obama, he has said his top priority now is to oppose anything President Joe Biden proposes. Other than that, Republicans have no legislative agenda whatsoever – not even overturning Obamacare. Similarly, I have no faith in Kevin McCarthy, who will likely become Speaker of the House should Republicans, as anticipated, gain a majority in the November midterms. He’s the guy who, perhaps fearing for his life during the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol, said “he’s had it” with Trump, and then, when it became apparent that the ex-president remains the kingmaker among what’s left of the soulless Republican Party, took a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Trump’s – what? – ring.
Constitutional democracy in America as I have known it in all my Boomer life is in grave peril. But overzealous Republicans – I’m looking at you, Justice Samuel Alito – may have handed Democrats just the cudgel they need to assist in your party’s self-destruction. Democrats don’t even need high-priced campaign specialists to tell them how to win. Just turn to women who vote. Maybe women who haven’t voted before. Or men who love and like to make love to women. Tell them all that the vicious, anti-female draft written by Alito also includes, in its total rebuke of Roe v. Wade, an admission that legislative law in states or in Congress would undo the radical remedy he has written in his screed against such an intensely personal decision as abortion. Roe v. Wade opponents in nearly a half-century have yet to apply their moral outrage to a compassionate solution. If you want to discourage abortion, then do what you ask these prospective mothers who feel they cannot support one child or an additional child. If you really value saving a fetal life, establish a nationwide adoption option. But you won’t do that. All you do is bully women and girls about whose circumstances you have no clue. And now you would criminalize them.
So, I say to you, shut up and mind your own business. I say that because, on top of it all, Republicans stand resolutely against supporting mothers. Once their babies are born, they’re all on their own. Child care? If you can’t afford it, that’s on you. Rich American taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to help.
If Samuel Alito, he of the Citizens United decision recognizing corporations as people equal to us flesh-and-blood voters, was responsible for the leak of his kill-abortion draft, it may well backfire. And even if it was leaked by liberals, McConnell may have overplayed his pack-the-court contortions. Democrats should run on electing Democrats on every level of government. The best example of how to proceed is Maryland, where choice will remain protected. That can be so for any state that elects a Democratic legislative majority and a Democratic governor. As for the “culture wars” waged by the right, it is clear now that Republicans will stop at nothing to gain power. On book banning, even math texts are suspect. To certain GOP governors (not Maryland’s), the First Amendment doesn’t cover the word “gay.” And if the opioid crisis is the fault of illegal immigrants, I suppose Republicans must be counting the gazillionaire Sackler family as illegals.
If you still believe that Trump will be reinstalled as president, short of a 2024 comeback, you’re fooling yourself. His election was not stolen. He lost. Decisively. And by never conceding defeat, Donald Trump is now the sorest loser of all time. Worse it may be shown in the upcoming public hearings regarding the Jan. 6 insurrection that he is guilty of sedition. That the ex-president is a traitor.
If there was any attempt to steal an election, it was on behalf and at the behest of Donald Trump. Republicans ask you not to believe your eyes and ears when you see the assault on our Capitol and our sacred peaceful transfer of power, which is all that separates us from Putin-style tyranny. Had Trump been re-elected, would he have ordered missile strikes against Mexico, taking a page from Vlad the Terrible’s Ukraine invasion under the cry of “Remember the Alamo”?
Voting Democratic across the board in this time of autocratic fiat on the part of an illegitimate Supreme Court is our surest way to reverse the Republican tide that has risen despite the popular will of the people. If President Biden has not delivered all that he promised, think of what he might achieve with just two more Democrats in the Senate. The House has passed a bill that would codify the right of women to make the right choice for themselves and for a fetus they may or may not be able to support as a baby. All that stands in the way of the Senate sending such a bill to Biden’s desk to sign into law is the filibuster. We know Joe Manchin’s position on that. But his vote alone would no longer be enough. Women will stand up for themselves, I feel sure. May the men in their lives stand with them.
Steve Parks is a retired New York journalist now living in Easton.