Posts Tagged ‘Roe v. Wade’

The Supreme Court Nominee’s Error about Roe v. Wade

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

We are once again in the midst of the circus leading up to confirmation hearings for the new Supreme Court nominee. Judge Brett Kavanaugh is making the rounds of the Senate, speaking to the Senators who will consider his nomination, and seeking to woo some of the potential swing votes in his favor. It’s the standard ritual, with all the usual photo ops, pre- and post-meeting press comments, etc. Little of any substance usually comes of these things.

But today, something of significance came out of the meeting between the nominee and a Republican Senator who considers herself to be “pro-choice”. After the meeting, the Senator said that the nominee called the infamous Roe v. Wade decision to be “settled law”. Presumably this is an accurate account of their conversation, because neither the nominee nor his handlers have disputed the Senator’s account.

This is very unsettling to hear from a Supreme Court nominee. We have heard it before, and it is a clear indication that the nominee has no real interest in overruling Roe. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch both called Roe “settled law” during their own confirmation hearings, and Justice Alito has said that it has added strength as a precedent because it has survived prior challenges and people have come to rely on it.

This is a terrible way of thinking, and it fails to recognize the fundamental duty of a judge to do justice and to decide cases correctly. An unjust law, or one that is clearly wrongly decided, can never be considered “settled”. And there is no question that Roe v. Wade was wrong as a matter of morality and legal reasoning, and that it is profoundly unjust. Its progeny, Planned Parenthood v. Casey (which really is the controlling law now, not Roe), was also wrongly decided. Both of these cases ruled that there is an entire class of human beings who have no constitutional rights – they have been judicially defined as non-persons, in effect outlaws, and they can be subjected to violence and killing with impunity. It is deeply troubling that the nominee has signaled that he would uphold such a law.

The nominee likes to consider himself an “originalist”, meaning that he believes that the Constitution should be interpreted according to its original public meaning at the time of its ratification. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand that judges of that time would never have viewed a wrongly-decided case as “settled”. Instead, they would have understood it to be their duty to correct the injustice.

The giant of English legal thinking, William Blackstone, wrote that prior decisions are not controlling if they are “flatly absurd or unjust” or “contrary to reason”. In the words of an great American legal scholar, Chancellor James Kent, “If, however, any solemnly adjudged case can be shown to be in error, it is no doubt the right and the duty of the judges who have a similar case before them, to correct the error”. Throughout our history, the Supreme Court has overruled prior decisions when it is clear that they were wrong or poorly reasoned. Judge Kavanaugh’s originalism clearly is not in keeping with these “settled” legal principles.

In another interview with a Senator, the nominee declined to say whether he thought Roe and Casey were correctly decided. One can understand his reticence, given the politicization of the confirmation process. But his failure to take a stand is incoherent. To believe that a case is “settled law” necessarily means that one believes that it was correctly; if one does not believe that a case was correctly decided, then it cannot be “settled law”. The nominee’s failure to take a stand is simply illogical – it violates the Law of Contradiction (a thing can’t be both A and not-A at the same time) that even lawyers understand very well. In any event, the nominee’s non-position certainly does not show any burning desire to overturn Roe.

So what is the final significance of all this? I have long been certain that the Supreme Court is not going to overrule Roe any time soon. Only Justice Thomas has ever said that he would do so, and all the other “conservatives” are now all on record saying that they believe Roe to be “settled law” or binding precedent. So, regardless of the assurances and wishful thinking of his supporters, I don’t believe that the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh brings us to the verge of Roe’s much-deserved demise.

That is not to say that I think Judge Kavanaugh will make things worse. I fully expect that he will show respect for the separation of powers and federalism, and that he will vote to permit states to have greater leeway in regulating abortion. That may begin the process of at least limiting the malign effects of RoeCasey. It may also contribute, in the long term, to the rebuilding of a culture of life in the law.

But in the meantime, the idea that the abortion decisions are “settled law” is an awful way of thinking, one that violates the fundamental duty of everyone – including judges – to do justice and act in accordance with the universal natural moral law. That law is “settled” – one may never deliberately take the life of an innocent person and the government has a solemn duty to ensure that all lives are protected from unjust violence.

The Idolatry of Abortion

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Once upon a time, people who called themselves “pro-choice” insisted that nobody is really in favor of abortion, but rather they see it as a sad necessity for women who are forced to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. We even heard from President Clinton – and the First Lady – that they thought that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”. These attitudes reflected the ambivalence of ordinary Americans about abortion. While most people support legal abortion in some cases, most actually oppose it and would impose restrictions on it in most cases.

While the ambivalence of Americans remains, the reticence of abortion rights supporters is long gone. The leading lights of that movement are revealing their true beliefs that abortion is a positive good that is not to be regretted but rather is to be celebrated. We are at the point where there is a virtual idolatry of abortion, where it is seen as a sine qua non for the active participation of women in society.

The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has been the catalyst for an astonishing amount of overheated rhetoric about abortion. We’ve seen claims that his confirmation will lead to the deaths of women, and even the display of the mythical coat-hanger meant to evoke illegal and dangerous abortions that are supposedly just around the corner. The fear-mongering will undoubtedly get even worse once the Senate convenes its confirmation hearings.

The most notable practitioner of waving the bloody shirt has been our Governor. His devotion to legalized and unrestricted abortion is long-standing, and his preference for outrageous rhetoric is well known. This is the man who once said that pro-lifers “have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”

He is now on the campaign trail pushing for the State Legislature to return to Albany for a special session to “codify Roe v. Wade” in state law. He recently made the bizarre statement that “If Roe v. Wade is overturned, women lose their right to choose in the state of New York today”. He must expect that nobody will actually fact-check him and realize that he is just making things up. The reality is that New York already has one of the most liberal abortion laws in the nation, one that pre-dates Roe and which permitted thousands of abortions prior to Roe. Abortion is available on demand, for any reason whatsoever, at any time prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy, and afterwards if the life of the mother is at risk. Overturning Roe will have no effect whatsoever on that – the vast majority of abortions will still be legal in New York.

The only way that the Governor’s statement makes any sense is when we realize that Roe was the high-point of abortion jurisprudence. It legalized late-term abortion to preserve a woman’s health – a term the Supreme Court defined so broadly that it means any reason whatsoever – and it was used by courts to strike down virtually all regulations on abortion at any stage of pregnancy. So what the Governor is really advocating for is unrestricted abortion and particularly late-term abortions on demand.

And that’s precisely what the Governor’s own abortion expansion bill would do. Back in 2013, the Governor introduced a radical bill as part of his “Women’s Equality Act” that would: expand the availability of late-term abortions on demand; permit non-doctors to do abortions, including late-term abortions; virtually eliminate the ability of the State or local governments to regulate the practice of abortion; immunize from criminal prosecution any person who directly tries to cause the death of an unborn child (e.g., in a domestic violence incident); and severely limit criminal prosecutions of unlicensed “back-alley” abortionists (which is ironic, given all the rhetoric about going back to the days of illegal abortions). That’s not a “pro-choice” bill, it’s the abortion industry’s wish list.

The Governor has also made the deeply weird statement that he will sue somebody for something in some court somewhere if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, and that’s why he really needs the Legislature to pass his abortion expansion bill now. I must have missed the class in law school where that makes any sense at all. Perhaps when the Governor was in law school he missed the class where they taught that the Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation, that there is no appeal to another court from its rulings, and that lower courts cannot overrule a Supreme Court decision.

The Governor also doesn’t seem to realize that Roe v. Wade is no longer the controlling law when it comes to abortion. In 1992, the Supreme Court decided the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which permitted much more regulation of abortion than Roe did. By expressing his preference for the Roe legal standard, the Governor shows that he is out of step with public opinion, which supports many limitations on abortions, especially late-term abortions, and that he wants New York to have the most extreme abortion law possible.

Our Governor is not the only one who is going to such extremes. Many pundits and leaders of the Democratic Party are just as far out there. This is becoming clearer and clearer, and by the end of Judge Kavanaugh’s Senate auto da fe, it will be undeniable.

Perhaps the clearest example of how the pro-abortion movement has come to idolize abortion took place on late-night television recently. An unfunny comedienne staged a bizarre and crude “Salute to Abortion” that celebrated the unlimited right to destroy unborn children. “Progressive” pundits applauded, and politicians who publicly recoil from every incontinent tweet from the President were nowhere to be found or heard from.

There’s a reason for that. The ideology of abortion has reached the point in certain precincts in America where its adherents have turned it into a virtual idol. This is why we must continue to oppose the Governor’s radical abortion bill, and any effort to extend legal protection to the killing of unborn human beings.

Realism about the Supreme Court and Abortion

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

The President is about to announce his nominee to fill the newly vacant seat on the Supreme Court. That will set off a bruising confirmation battle that will stretch into September at least. The rhetoric will be heated and likely ugly, and may even include a large dose of religious intolerance. As this maelstrom kicks off, it’s important that we have realistic expectations about what this will mean for legalized abortion.

It is a clear sign of the debasement of our American political society that so much energy and effort are going to be devoted to a Supreme Court nomination. The loss of a proper understanding of natural law and the dominance of a sense of moral agnosticism have left our government and courts without a moral and legal compass to guide them in interpreting and making civil law. The centralization of power in Washington, which was never envisioned by the Founders of our nation, has given the federal government and especially the courts a disproportionate control over public policy, when compared to the states. One consequence of this has been the constitutionalization of what should be political questions, as we have seen in the issues of abortion and marriage. Another consequence has been the increasing intrusion of politics into areas that are rightly protected personal liberties, such as the freedoms of speech, religion and association.

The worst consequence has been that the Supreme Court — and particularly the “swing vote” that was exercised by the retiring Justice Kennedy — has become our de facto ruler when it comes to essential questions of the separation of powers between the branches of government and crucial social issues relating to life, family and religion. It is truly bizarre that the last few weeks in June is a time of great anticipation, as the Supreme Court’s term comes to an end and we citizens passively wait for rulings that will define our lives. This is why I often derisively refer to the Court as our “Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers” — a role that Washington, Hamilton and Madison would be horrified to see.

These trends are so deeply rooted that we have to have realistic expectations. None of the nominees to the Court will change this sorry situation. None will restore the correct separation of powers or the federalism that were built into our constitutional structure as a defense against the abuse of power. None will stop the trend of constitutionalizing political questions.

We particularly have to be realistic when it comes to the momentous issue of abortion. There is no question that Roe v. Wade decision was wrongly decided as a matter of morality and legal reasoning, and that it has had a corrupting effect on the law, the legal profession and the judicial confirmation process. It is imperative to see it and its progeny overruled (particularly Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which really is the controlling law now, not Roe), and for the constitutional rights of unborn children to be recognized and protected. But that isn’t going to happen any time soon, no matter who the President selects.

Regardless of who the nominee is, it is far from clear that that there would be enough votes on the Court to overrule Roe and Casey. Of the current judges on the Court, four are certainly never going to vote to overrule or even meaningfully limit abortion; only one, Justice Thomas, has ever said that he would vote to overrule; Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch both called Roe “settled law” during their own confirmation hearings, and Justice Alito has said that it has added strength as a precedent because it has survived prior challenges and people have come to rely on it. So it’s not as if Roe and Casey are hanging by a thread and just need one more vote to be overruled.

It’s also important to understand that the “conservatism” of some of the Justices would suggest that they may actually shy away from overruling Roe and Casey, even if they believe that it was wrongly decided. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, and it would already appear Justice Gorsuch, have a strong tendency to minimalism in their rulings — deciding questions on the most narrow grounds available, and choosing, as Justice Alito once wrote, to “leave broader issues for another day.” You can see that trend in some of the major decisions of the last term, for example the Masterpiece Cakesdecision, where the “conservative” justices supported a narrow ruling and completely ducked the critical free speech issue.

This minimalism is particularly important when one realizes how deeply embedded Roe and Caseyare in Supreme Court jurisprudence. Roe didn’t spontaneously emerge fully formed from the brow of Justice Blackmun, nor did the infamous “mystery of life” passage in Casey come out of nowhere. They were the result of decades of prior decisions, reaching back to the 1920’s, in which the Court recognized or invented “privacy” and other rights that are nowhere enumerated in the Constitution, many of which have no basis in history, tradition or natural law. Some of these decisions were actually correct, but many were perverse (like the contraception decisions Griswold and Eisenstadt), and all of them laid the groundwork for Roe and Casey. They also stemmed from a theory of absolute personal autonomy that evolved from the political liberalism on which America was founded and that produced the culture of sexual libertinism and moral relativism that we currently inhabit.

Overruling Roe and Casey would thus mean that the “conservative” Justices would be repudiating an entire body of law and a political and moral philosophy that is so deeply entrenched in our society that most people find any alternative view virtually incomprehensible. They would also set off a political explosion that would undermine the legitimacy of the Court in the eyes of a large number of Americans and many powerful elected officials. Such a momentous decision would be virtually unprecedented in American history, with the only prior examples that I can think of being Brown v. Board of Education and Roe itself.

Even if the Justices mustered the fortitude to overrule Roe and Casey, abortion would not suddenly be made illegal across the United States. The issue would then return to the states for regulation. A number of states already have laws on the books that would essentially permit abortion on demand for some, if not all of pregnancy. New York’s statute, for example, permits abortion on demand prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy. According to one expert on abortion law, if Roe and Casey were overruled, only eleven states have laws that would completely outlaw abortion, and over 80% of Americans would live in states where the situation would be essentially unchanged — abortion would still be legal for all nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason and with little effective regulation.

It is also likely that state courts would step into the breach and declare a constitutional right to abortion. Iowa’s Supreme Court did so just last week, and as many as twelve other states had previously done so. We would also expect increased pressure in solid liberal states like New York to expand abortion rights through legislation.

This is not to say that we should expect that nothing will change for the better. I fully expect that the new Justice will be a legitimate constitutional originalist, which means that they would interpret the Constitution according to its actual original meaning. I also expect that they will show greater respect for the separation of powers and federalism. And I believe that at least in the short term they will vote to permit states to have greater leeway in regulating abortion, and to protect religious liberty and freedom of expression. Those would all be good developments, and may begin the process of rolling back Roe, Casey, and the terrible decisions that underlie them.

A new nominee to the Supreme Court will not be a magic bullet that will make all things new. Our challenge is to continue to press for social and legislative change that would increase respect for human life. We also have to work harder to create a social infrastructure that would replace the culture of contraception and abortion and promote a vision of women’s health that truly respects her fertility and genuine freedom. We still have a lot of work to do.

The Abortion Resistance Continues

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

The sad anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision is once again upon us. Our nation continues to live under the shadow of one of the greatest injustices in our history — a legal regime that holds that unborn children have no rights that born people are bound to respect. It is a legal system that violates all notions of human rights by permitting acts of lethal violence with impunity against an entire class of human beings, solely because of their age and vulnerability.

The radical nature of our abortion laws is woefully misunderstood. The news media and commentators frequently mislead people into thinking that Roe merely legalized abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, and permitted many restrictions thereafter. The fact of the matter is, and always has been, that Roe struck down the abortion laws of every state in the Union, and guarantees the right to an abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason whatsoever. This is important to understand, especially when demagogic public officials like the Governor of New York trumpet their desire to enact Roe into law.

Here in a very liberal state, it is sometimes easy to forget that abortion is not as widely supported in the rest of America. A new poll from the Knights of Columbus and Marist College demonstrates the depth of pro-life feelings in our nation. Only a bare majority of Americans (51%) call themselves “pro-choice”, while 44% say they’re “pro-life”. But labels are deceptive — they conceal the real pro-life majority. This can be seen when the poll asks more specific questions about people’s actual beliefs:

  • 76% of Americans support limiting abortion to the first three months of pregnancy.
  • There is strong support for this limit across the political and ideological spectrum — Republicans (92%), Independents (78%), Democrats (61%) and even those who call themselves Pro-choice (60%).
  • 63% of Americans would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and 60% oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortion.
  • 56% of Americans continue to believe that abortion is morally wrong, and 64% believe it’s immoral to abort unborn children with genetic ailments like Down syndrome — a position that even 49% of those who are Pro-choice agree with.
  • In a sign of hope for authentic conscience protection, 54% of Americans agree that medical professionals and organizations with moral objections should not be required to be involved in abortions or cover them with health insurance.
  • Abortion continues to be a major issue in how people decide to vote for President (42%), Congress (45%) and local races (38%).
  • And despite decades of pro-abortion propaganda intended to establish that abortion is a positive good, a strong majority of Americans (52%) say that abortion does a woman more harm than good in the long run, while only 29% have bought the lie that abortion improves a woman’s life.

It has proven frustratingly difficult to translate pro-life support in polls into public policy and judicial decisions. This is especially true in our current dysfunctional political system, especially here in New York. But what this new poll demonstrates is that however deeply embedded abortion may be in our law and society, the pro-life position is still strong in the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans.

The cause of life can never be defeated, because it is the cause of truth and it’s the cause of God. And so on this Friday, January 19, we once again march to give witness to our belief in the sanctity of every human life, confident that there are millions of others who can’t be with us but who share our beliefs.

The Resistance goes on.

Failing the Dred Scott Question

Friday, March 24th, 2017

As I have already written, I have great concerns about some of the answers given by Judge Neil Gorsuch during his confirmation hearings. I consider his originalist legal philosophy to be perfectly sound and likely to produce decisions that are favorable to the cause of human life. But when asked the most important question, his answer was an utter failure.

One of the Democratic Senators, Richard Durbin, was questioning Judge Gorsuch about a book he had written about assisted suicide and euthanasia. In the book, Judge Gorscuh proposed a principle that could be used to justify laws against suicide and euthanasia, which he called the “inviolability-of-life principle”:  “All human beings are intrinsically valuable, and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Senator Durbin then asked the judge how he could square that principle with legalized abortion. This exchange then took place:

Gorsuch: Senator, as the book explains, the Supreme Court of the United States has held in Roe v. Wade that a fetus is not a person for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment—and that book explains that..

Durbin: Do you accept that?

Gorsuch: That’s the law of the land. I accept the law of the land, Senator, yes.

I appreciate Judge Gorsuch’s respect for precedent and the original meaning of the Constitution. But I wonder if he realizes that in his answer, he was echoing one of the worst possible Supreme Court precedents — the infamous case of Dred Scott v. Sandford. In that decision, the Court held that, based on their reading of the original meaning of the Constitution, African-Americans were not “persons” within the meaning of the Constitution:

They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect…. [and the provisions of the Constitution] show clearly that they were not regarded as a portion of the people or citizens of the Government then formed.

In a concurring opinion, one of the Justices said this:

The correct conclusions upon the question here considered would seem to be these: That, in the establishment of the several communities now the States of this Union, and in the formation of the Federal Government, the African was not deemed politically a person.

Is that really the kind of precedent that we want Supreme Court justices to respect?

What’s especially disheartening about Judge Gorsuch’s answer is that he didn’t have to say that at all. He could have easily deflected the question — as he did with pretty much every other substantive question — by saying that the issue of the personhood of unborn humans was likely to be litigated before the Court and that it was thus inappropriate for him to comment. The fact that he did give a substantive answer means that he considered the non-person status of unborn humans to be so clearly and finally settled that it is uncontroversial.

I still think that Judge Gorsuch should be confirmed, and that he will likely rule positively on incremental pro-life regulations of abortion. But any hope that he would overrule Roe v. Wadeappears to be a mirage.

The most important threshold legal question in any case is whether someone can count on the protection of the law to defend their basic human rights. Judge Gorsuch failed that question.

“Precedents” and Justice

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

We are now in the midst of yet another set of hearings on the nomination of a new justice of the Supreme Court. As with prior hearings, it has been considerably less than edifying, given the political grand-standing and speechifying. But once again, some of the more illuminating exchanges have centered on the concept of “precedent”.

“Precedent” is a legal term for a previous judicial decision. In many cases, courts will consider precedent to be the controlling legal authority. For example, lower courts must follow the precedents of higher courts in all similar cases. This is an important feature of a common law-based legal system, like ours. It means that once a legal issue has been resolved, there is a strong preference for respecting and giving deference to that decision, so that there can be some clarity and predictability about what the law is. The fancy Latin term for this respect for precedent is “stare decisis”, which means, basically, “maintain what has been decided”.

Of course, not all previous judicial decisions are worthy of being followed. It has always been understood that prior decisions are not controlling if they are “flatly absurd or unjust” or “contrary to reason” (to quote the great legal scholar William Blackstone). Courts frequently overrule prior decisions when it becomes clear that they were wrong or poorly reasoned. In fact, in the words of another great legal scholar, Chancellor James Kent, “If, however, any solemnly adjudged case can be shown to be in error, it is no doubt the right and the duty of the judges who have a similar case before them, to correct the error” (emphasis added).

The Supreme Court has overruled prior cases, or declined to follow them, many times. The most famous example is Brown v. Board of Education, which overruled the earlier erroneous decision by the Court that endorsed legal racial segregation. There have also been other cases that are universally seen as unworthy of being followed, even if the Court has never formally overruled them. For example, we have the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford, which held that African-Americans “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect”, or the case of Buck v. Bell, which upheld the involuntary sterilization of mentally handicapped persons since, as the Court said, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”. Clearly, those “precedents” are not worthy of any respect.

This brings us to the current confirmation hearings. The Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee are repeatedly asking the nominee about his views on the cases of Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and their ilk. They have invented a term, “super-precedent”, to indicate that they believe these decisions are beyond any further judicial review and can never be overturned — a concept so foreign to our Constitutional order and to the rule of law as to be laughable.

However, in response to one of those questions, the nominee said: “”Once a case is settled, that adds to the determinacy of the law. What was once a hotly contested issue is no longer a hotly contested issue. We move forward.”

That is a very unfortunate way of thinking. Roe, Casey, and their progeny have excluded unborn children from virtually any legal protection, declared them not to be “persons” under the law, and permit their destruction with impunity. They have established the unborn as a virtual underclass, whose rights no man is bound to respect. They violate the fundamental principles of natural law and justice, and the promise of universal equality under the law and the right to life as expressed by the Declaration of Independence. They are widely recognized as being poorly reasoned, even to the point where legal scholars who favor abortion rights have derided them.

It is therefore very troubling that the new Supreme Court nominee has called these decisions “precedent” and “settled”, and that we have to “move forward”. When a law — either a statute or a judicial decision — violates the inherent, inalienable rights of any human being, that law can never be considered to be “settled”. It can never be respected or given deference as a binding “precedent”. Such a law is not really a law at all, but is instead a usurpation of power and an act of violence. A true respect for authentic justice means that it must be opposed and changed.

Justice must take precedence over “precedents”. Otherwise we do not have an authentic rule of law for all, and we will never fulfill the dream of respecting the inalienable rights given to us by our Creator, particularly the right to life. I hope that the nominee will consider this more carefully when he is on the Supreme Court, and take seriously his right and duty to correct the injustice of the Court’s abortion decisions.

It’s About More Than Abortion

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Today marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s tragic 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which struck down the abortion laws in all 50 states, and legalized abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason, or for no reason.  The cost is almost unimaginable — almost 60 million unborn lives have been lost, at least as many women and men have been scarred by the experience, and our culture has slid, seemingly inexorably, into a Culture of Death that degrades the value of human life.

We remember this tragedy today in many ways, including the March for Life and by observing a special Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children at Mass. It is also a time to reflect on the effect that Roe and its progeny have had on the rule of law, and the damage that has been done to our Constitution, our courts, and our democracy.

Even when it was handed down, Roe was immediately recognized as a lawless abuse of power, the imposition of a policy preference by a few unelected judges, against the democratically-expressed will of the American people.  Justice Byron White, in his dissent from Roe‘s companion case, Doe v. Bolton, pointedly described the Court’s action as “an exercise of raw judicial power… an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.”

Since 1973, things have gotten even worse.  There has been a furious drive by advocates (including those on the bench) to preserve abortion rights against all attempts to limit them.  Nothing is acceptable to the pro-abortion movement, and they systematically and regularly distort the law and politics to get their way.  Abortion has tainted everything it touches, corrupting the professions (especially law and medicine).  It has caused radical limitations of free speech rights (see the Court’s decision in Hill v. Colorado), and it’s stain has spread to other areas of the law as well.

This can be seen most clearly in the legacy of the Court’s muddled and misguided decision inPlanned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.  The plurality decision in that case thrashed about wildly to find a legal ground to further entrench abortion as a Constitutional right, finally settling on  what is perhaps the most absurd, and justly derided, passage in any Court decision:

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

The opinion also added these astonishingly arrogant remarks:

Where, in the performance of its judicial duties, the Court decides a case in such a way as to resolve the sort of intensely divisive controversy reflected in Roe and those rare, comparable cases, its decision has a dimension that the resolution of the normal case does not carry. It is the dimension present whenever the Court’s interpretation of the Constitution calls the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution.

This gaseous irrational nonsense has had a toxic effect on the law.  It empowers judges to make up rights as they go along, untethered to any identifiably meaning in the actual Constitution, as it has been understood throughout our nation’s history.  It eliminates the need for legal reasoning, and substitutes the policy whims of judges.  It hands ultimate power into the hands of judges, who were never imagined by the Founders of our nation to have such a role in government.  It eliminates self-rule, and substitutes a judicial oligarchy.

It led most recently to the Court’s lawless decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, in which our Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Rulers on the Court redefined marriage at the stroke of a pen to mean something that it never has meant, and never could mean.  Who knows where it will lead next — “gender rights”, assisted suicide, polygamy?  Nobody knows, because reason no longer rules in our courts.

All this calls to mind one of the other horrendous decisions made by the Supreme Court, when it arrogated to itself the final authority to make policy under the guise of law — Dred Scott v. Sandford, the only decision prior to Roe that decided that a class of human beings was outside of the protections of the law and could be disposed at will.  In his dissent from that decision, Justice Benjamin Curtis made the following prescient statement:

[W]hen a strict interpretation of the Constitution, according to the fixed rules which govern the interpretation of laws, is abandoned, and the theoretical opinions of individuals are allowed to control its meaning, we have no longer a Constitution; we are under the government of individual men, who for the time being have power to declare what the Constitution is, according to their own views of what it ought to mean.

That, too, is the legacy of Roe v. Wade.  So as we mourn today the pernicious effects of Roe on human lives, let’s also keep in mind its devastating impact on the rule of law and reason, as witnessed in our out-of-control courts.