THE DOBBS ABORTION DECISION
ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES
Why is it important that citizens vote to determine their future? As Greek philosopher Plato once said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
As a result of the election of Donald Trump, the nature of SCOTUS changed dramatically because he appointed three conservative justices who believe as clearly shown by the following quotes from their opinions, that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the provisions as stated at the time of its formation.
The Supreme Court has issued the opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization regarding abortion and overturned Roe v. Wade which established a woman’s right to have an abortion under the U.S. Constitution.
Regardless of how you may feel about the issue of abortion and whether it is a “right” that a woman can decide for herself, you should know that the decision does not make abortion illegal. The Court simply reverted to what occurs in the form of government we have, a republic, and left it for citizens to decide the issue in the state in which they reside.
To better understand the decision of the Court it is necessary to quote extensively from the opinions of the judges. Their explanations are important to those seeking to see what may be the future role of SCOTUS regarding issues such as this.
Justice Samuel Alito, the author of the majority opinion states:
Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views. Some believe fervently that a human person comes into being at conception and that abortion ends an innocent life. Others feel just as strongly that any regulation of abortion invades a woman’s right to control her own body and prevents women from achieving full equality. Still others in a third group think that abortion should be allowed under some but not all circumstances, and those within this group hold a variety of views about the particular restrictions that should be imposed.
For the first 185 years after the adoption of the Constitution, each State was permitted to address this issue in accordance with the views of its citizens. Then, in 1973, this Court decided Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113. Even though the Constitution makes no mention of abortion, the Court held that it confers a broad right to obtain one. It did not claim that American law or the common law had ever recognized such a right, and its survey of history ranged from the constitutionally irrelevant (e.g., its discussion of abortion in antiquity) to the plainly incorrect (e.g., its assertion that abortion was probably never a crime under the common law). After cataloging a wealth of other information having no bearing on the meaning of the Constitution, the opinion concluded with a numbered set of rules much like those that might be found in a statute enacted by a legislature.
In other words, what Justice Alito was saying goes to the issue whether SCOTUS can “make law”, which under the Constitution is the job of Congress, the legislative body of the federal government. Clearly, the appointment of the more conservative members of the Court will, if opinions like this continue, affect its rulings and we will return to a republic system of government as designed by the Constitution. We will be ruled by our elected representatives in legislative bodies which will pass laws as we desire by their election or re-election by involved people paying attention to what is being done to them.
Justice Alito went on to describe the effects of Roe:
At the time of Roe, 30 States still prohibited abortion at all stages. In the years prior to that decision, about a third of the States had liberalized their laws, but Roe abruptly ended that political process. It imposed the same highly restrictive regime on the entire Nation, and it effectively struck down the abortion laws of every single State.3 As Justice Byron White aptly put it in his dissent, the decision represented the “exercise of raw judicial power,” 410 U. S., at 222, and it sparked a national controversy that has embittered our political culture for a half century.4 (I have omitted the citations)
After discussing the history of its abortion cases, Justice Alito wrote:
We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721 (1997) (internal quotation marks omitted).
The right to abortion does not fall within this category. Until the latter part of the 20th century, such a right was entirely unknown in American law. Indeed, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, three quarters of the States made abortion a crime at all stages of pregnancy. The abortion right is also critically different from any other right that this Court has held to fall within the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of “liberty.” Roe’s defenders characterize the abortion right as similar to the rights recognized in past decisions involving matters such as intimate sexual relations, contraception, and marriage, but abortion is fundamentally different, as both Roe and Casey acknowledged, because it destroys what those decisions called “fetal life” and what the law now before us describes as an “un-born human being.”13
Then he says:
It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. “The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations, upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.” Casey, 505 U. S., at 979 (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part). That is what the Constitution and the rule of law demand.
The reasoning by the majority of the Court is that:
Constitutional analysis must begin with “the language of the instrument,” Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 186–189 (1824), which offers a “fixed standard” for ascertaining what our founding document means, 1 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States §399, p. 383 (1833). The Constitution makes no express reference to a right to obtain an abortion, and therefore those who claim that it protects such a right must show that the right is somehow implicit in the constitutional text.
Justice Alito concluded, after writing extensively about the history of the understanding of how society felt about abortion at the time of the forming of the Constitution:
The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions. On the contrary, an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973….
Addressing the argument that there is a “right to abortion” Justice Alito states:
The Court did not claim that this broadly framed right is absolute, and no such claim would be plausible. While individuals are certainly free to think and to say what they wish about “existence,” “meaning,” the “universe,” and “the mystery of human life,” they are not always free to act in accordance with those thoughts. License to act on the basis of such beliefs may correspond to one of the many under- standings of “liberty,” but it is certainly not “ordered liberty.”
Ordered liberty sets limits and defines the boundary between competing interests. Roe and Casey each struck a particular balance between the interests of a woman who wants an abortion and the interests of what they termed “potential life.” Roe, 410 U. S., at 150 (emphasis deleted); Casey, 505 U. S., at 852. But the people of the various States may evaluate those interests differently. In some States, voters may believe that the abortion right should be even more extensive than the right that Roe and Casey recognized. Voters in other States may wish to impose tight restrictions based on their belief that abortion destroys an “unborn human being.” Miss. Code Ann. §41–41–191(4)(b). Our Nation’s historical understanding of ordered liberty does not prevent the people’s elected representatives from deciding how abortion should be regulated.
The opinion then extensively considers other issues that were argued including stare decisis and confronts issues raised by the minority opinion. Since the states will as a result of the opinion control abortion laws, the Court sets out some guidance by stating:
We must now decide what standard will govern if state abortion regulations undergo constitutional challenge and whether the law before us satisfies the appropriate standard.
Under our precedents, rational-basis review is the appropriate standard for such challenges. As we have explained, procuring an abortion is not a fundamental constitutional right because such a right has no basis in the Constitution’s text or in our Nation’s history. See supra, at 8–39.
It follows that the States may regulate abortion for legitimate reasons, and when such regulations are challenged under the Constitution, courts cannot “substitute their social and economic beliefs for the judgment of legislative bodies.” Ferguson, 372 U. S., at 729–730; see also Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U. S. 471, 484–486 (1970); United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U. S. 144, 152 (1938). That respect for a legislature’s judgment applies even when the laws at issue concern matters of great social significance and moral substance. See, e.g., Board of Trustees of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U. S. 356, 365–368 (2001) (“treatment of the disabled”); Glucksberg, 521 U. S., at 728 (“assisted suicide”); San Antonio Independent School Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U. S. 1, 32–35, 55 (1973) (“financing public education”).
A law regulating abortion, like other health and welfare laws, is entitled to a “strong presumption of validity.” Heller v. Doe, 509 U. S. 312, 319 (1993). It must be sustained if there is a rational basis on which the legislature could have thought that it would serve legitimate state interests. Id., at 320; FCC v. Beach Communications, Inc., 508 U. S. 307, 313 (1993); New Orleans v. Dukes, 427 U. S. 297, 303 (1976) (per curiam); Williamson v. Lee Optical of Okla., Inc., 348 U. S. 483, 491 (1955). These legitimate interests include respect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development, Gonzales, 550 U. S., at 157–158; the protection of maternal health and safety; the elimination of particularly gruesome or barbaric medical procedures; the preservation of the integrity of the medical profession; the mitigation of fetal pain; and the prevention of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or disability. See id., at 156– 157; Roe, 410 U. S., at 150; cf. Glucksberg, 521 U. S., at 728– 731 (identifying similar interests).
The Court apparently found this direction to lower courts to be necessary because challenges to state laws and regulations would likely be filed and wanted to give some guidance.
Ending the majority opinion Justice Alito states:
We end this opinion where we began. Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.
For those interested, at the end of the majority opinion there are appendices presenting statutes from various states concerning abortion at different times in history. (p. 79-108)
Justice Thomas concurs stating:
I join the opinion of the Court because it correctly holds that there is no constitutional right to abortion….
I write separately to emphasize a second, more fundamental reason why there is no abortion guarantee lurking in the Due Process Clause….
He continues by stating:
Because the Court properly applies our substantive due process precedents to reject the fabrication of a constitutional right to abortion, and because this case does not present the opportunity to reject substantive due process entirely, I join the Court’s opinion. But, in future cases, we should “follow the text of the Constitution, which sets forth certain substantive rights that cannot be taken away, and adds, beyond that, a right to due process when life, liberty, or property is to be taken away.” Carlton, 512 U. S., at 42 (opinion of Scalia, J.). Substantive due process conflicts with that textual command and has harmed our country in many ways. Accordingly, we should eliminate it from our jurisprudence at the earliest opportunity.
Justice Kavanaugh concurs in the opinion writing:
I write separately to explain my additional views about why Roe was wrongly decided, why Roe should be overruled at this time, and the future implications of today’s decision.
Abortion is a profoundly difficult and contentious issue because it presents an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of a pregnant woman who seeks an abortion and the interests in protecting fetal life. The interests on both sides of the abortion issue are extraordinarily weighty.
On the one side, many pro-choice advocates forcefully argue that the ability to obtain an abortion is critically important for women’s personal and professional lives, and for women’s health. They contend that the widespread availability of abortion has been essential for women to advance in society and to achieve greater equality over the last 50 years. And they maintain that women must have the freedom to choose for themselves whether to have an abortion.
On the other side, many pro-life advocates forcefully argue that a fetus is a human life. They contend that all human life should be protected as a matter of human dignity and fundamental morality. And they stress that a significant percentage of Americans with pro-life views are women.
When it comes to abortion, one interest must prevail over the other at any given point in a pregnancy. Many Americans of good faith would prioritize the interests of the pregnant woman. Many other Americans of good faith instead would prioritize the interests in protecting fetal life—at least unless, for example, an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother. Of course, many Americans are conflicted or have nuanced views that may vary depending on the particular time in pregnancy, or the particular circumstances of a pregnancy.
The issue before this Court, however, is not the policy or morality of abortion. The issue before this Court is what the Constitution says about abortion. The Constitution does not take sides on the issue of abortion. The text of the Constitution does not refer to or encompass abortion. To be sure, this Court has held that the Constitution protects un- enumerated rights that are deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, and implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. But a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in American history and tradition, as the Court today thoroughly explains.
On the question of abortion, the Constitution is therefore neither pro-life nor pro-choice. The Constitution is neutral and leaves the issue for the people and their elected representatives to resolve through the democratic process in the States or Congress—like the numerous other difficult questions of American social and economic policy that the Constitution does not address.
Because the Constitution is neutral on the issue of abortion, this Court also must be scrupulously neutral. The nine unelected Members of this Court do not possess the constitutional authority to override the democratic process and to decree either a pro-life or a pro-choice abortion policy for all 330 million people in the United States.
Justice Kavanaugh also states:
After today’s decision, the nine Members of this Court will no longer decide the basic legality of pre-viability abortion for all 330 million Americans. That issue will be re- solved by the people and their representatives in the democratic process in the States or Congress.
Chief Justice Roberts concurred in the judgment but thought the Court went beyond the question they needed to decide.
Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, dissented stating:
For half a century, Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992), have protected the liberty and equality of women. Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that the Constitution safeguards a woman’s right to decide for herself whether to bear a child. Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that in the first stages of pregnancy, the government could not make that choice for women. The government could not control a woman’s body or the course of a woman’s life: It could not determine what the woman’s future would be. See Casey, 505 U. S., at 853; Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U. S. 124, 171–172 (2007) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting). Respecting a woman as an autonomous being, and granting her full equality, meant giving her substantial choice over this most personal and most consequential of all life decisions.
The dissent states that as a result of this decision:
…from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs. An abortion restriction, the majority holds, is permissible whenever rational, the lowest level of scrutiny known to the law. And because, as the Court has often stated, protecting fetal life is rational, States will feel free to enact all manner of restrictions….
The dissenting judges also expressed a concern that:
Enforcement of all these draconian restrictions will also be left largely to the States’ devices. A State can of course impose criminal penalties on abortion providers, including lengthy prison sentences. But some States will not stop there. Perhaps, in the wake of today’s decision, a state law will criminalize the woman’s conduct too, incarcerating or fining her for daring to seek or obtain an abortion. And as Texas has recently shown, a State can turn neighbor against neighbor, enlisting fellow citizens in the effort to root out anyone who tries to get an abortion, or to assist another in doing so.
Thereafter there is an extensive discussion of the history of abortion after Roe was decided and the concern the dissenting judges have for this decision. Ending their dissent, they state:
With sorrow—for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent.
Finally, it needs to be clearly stated that the Dobbs case, although overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, does not prohibit abortion. The case decides that since the Constitution does not mention abortion there is no federal right to one and the issue must be decided in the states.
Here is a link to the opinion:
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