They say history repeats itself. You are likely familiar with the saying, but uncertain of its true meaning. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito shocked us all the other day when a draft opinion of his for the majority in an abortion case said, “We hold that Roe and Casey (the Mississippi abortion case) must be overruled.” This stunned both the left and the right, who had not been expecting a leak of this magnitude from an institution such as the Supreme Court.
While Chief Justice Roberts did in fact confirm the draft’s authenticity, it remains to be seen whether this draft opinion will represent the majority’s opinion in the end. If at least four other justices do side with Alito’s draft opinion, it would mean that the highest court in the nation has chosen to overturn the historic Roe v. Wade decision. As far as we are aware, the document is still in draft form, so justices might still change their views and vote the other way. In fact, this would not be unprecedented; in 1937, Justice Owen Roberts famously switched voting sides in a case that upheld federal minimum wage laws after he found them unconstitutional just one year earlier (though, some believe this was done in an effort to prevent court packing by FDR). That is just one famous example—there’s no telling how often this actually occurs behind closed doors. Regardless of the outcome of this case, political and social repercussions will be felt across the United States.
This opinion, assuming it is the true, final opinion, does not outlaw abortion, contrary to what many pro-choice advocates would have you think. This ruling will instead allow the people of the United States to decide for themselves whether they wish to criminalize abortion, legalize it, or place certain restrictions on it. This opinion would return sovereignty to the people and enable the position on abortion with the greatest support to become the law, as opposed to the laws that unelected judges in black robes create. Truthfully, those who decry this decision as an infringement on the right of women are simultaneously in support of infringements on the right to self-govern.
Chief Justice Roberts stated it perfectly in his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark case which made the right to marriage a constitutional right, “This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”
The original Roe v. Wade decision was also leaked to the press, which makes this leak particularly intriguing. In January 1973, a Supreme Court clerk divulged the opinion to a reporter from Time magazine. Approximately half a century later, a separate judgment was leaked to a different publication, this time Politico in Washington, D.C.
Who leaked it this time? The Supreme Court has traditionally guarded its proceedings and opinions with the utmost discretion, so this breach has us all wondering: Was it another clerk? Was that a clerk serving a judge?
It is a tremendous victory for the political right and a major defeat for the political left. However, it also produces uncertainty and undoubtedly pushback inside the very secretive Supreme Court chambers. In fact, this leak might have significant repercussions for the upcoming midterm elections, where the Republicans now have an edge as more Republican voters are motivated about November. Democrats, who have battled on issues ranging from the faltering economy with increased prospects of a recession, to rising crime, to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, may suddenly have a single subject to mobilize crucial demographics beneath the Democrat banner: abortion.
The Democrats, who were once in danger of losing the House and the Senate, have been given a lifeline. But for how long? This remains uncertain, and it will undoubtedly be a focus of their efforts. Despite this lifeline, the Democrats have the problem of mobilizing their enormous base. Despite having a statistical edge in terms of the percentage of people who identify as Democrats versus Republicans, they are not consistently good at mobilization.
Republicans should welcome this moment, but they must not lose sight of what has given them an edge over Democrats: focusing on kitchen table concerns such as the price of gasoline, inflation-driven food prices, and violence in America’s big cities. They must focus on the subject that affects the greatest number of Americans, not fringe minorities. If they can do this, they will likely be in position to reclaim control of the House and maybe even the Senate.
The current topic of discussion is the diminishment of yet another significant institution, the Supreme Court. The trust that Americans have in it is as low as it ever has been, and the politicization of it is at its apex.
We are in a position where the cultural divide in this country is destructive, but could both sides reach a compromise on this issue? Some topics are non-negotiable, and this is one of those problems for many Christians, as well as many Democrats. I have no other answer to this problem but to pray for our fractured country.
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