The aftershocks of the earthquake triggered in Washington last week, with the explosive leak of the first draft of an opinion authored by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, and backed in by four other Justices, including the three radical conservatives appointed by former president Donald Trump, continue to shake the foundations of the capital and the landscape across the country
USSC Bruce Wolpe joins U.S correspondent Veronica Dudo, and ticker’s Holly Stearnes join a panel on U.S. abortion rights
The magnitude of the impact of the draft opinion is simply enormous.
What has been accepted by well over 60% of the American people as a constitutional right – the ability of women to have access to abortion services – is about to be removed.
There is no good that comes from going down that road of taking rights away from people. In 1856, in the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court held that former slaves did not have standing in federal courts because they lacked U.S. citizenship, even after they were freed.
That decision, so outrageous, contributed to the Civil War. In 1954, in Brown v Board of Education, the Court ruled that segregated “separate but equal” schools for Black students recognised by the Supreme Court 50 years earlier was unconstitutional as this did not afford equal protection under law – a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment enacted after President Lincoln and the North won the civil war and ended slavery.
The arc of justice in other words, is best when the law advances rights – not takes them away.
33 million American women between the ages of 15 and 44 living in over two dozen states across the country will be denied access to abortion services if this draft opinion is ultimately adopted.
But nothing in the Constitution prevents Congress from enacting a law to legally establish and protect a woman’s right to have access to abortion services.
This is the basis of the Women’s Health Protection Act which passed the House last September.
The Democratic leadership of the House recognised that what everyone is facing this week was coming, and that the best protection against overturning the precedent of Roe v Wade is through legislation.
The bill provides that, “Congress finds abortion services are essential to health care. A health care provider has a statutory right under this Act to provide abortion services.”
This is the bill that the Democratic leadership will bring to the Senate this week. It will fail.
No Republicans in the House voted for this bill, which passed on a party-line vote of 218-211. There are only two Republicans in the Senate– both women, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – who support abortion rights.
All but one or two of the 50 Democrats will support it. Bu the Senate is not a democratic institution. A simple majority vote is insufficient to pass legislation.
A bill needs a supermajority of 60 votes to pass the Senate. That is completely out of reach today for abortion rights.
The Senate could change its rules and allow the abortion rights bill to pass in this one instance by a simple majority. But that will not happen either.
At least two Democrats oppose upending this Senate tradition, and no Republican will vote against their leadership to alter the Senate to pass a Democratic bill on abortion.
This ugly hyper-partisanship will have several ramifications.
If this Senate cannot protect these rights, perhaps more Democrats in the Senate can. Democrats will use this vote to target Senate seats held by Republicans that are up in the November midterm elections in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin.
This could well energise not only Democrats but also key swing independent voters who do support, in significant numbers, abortion rights.
But the human impact on women is frightening.
The journalist who obtained the draft opinion in the leak from the Supreme Court, and broke the story, Josh Gerstein of Politico, said this last Friday:
Gerstein is right. This is the world we are in.
160 years after the Civil War, another Underground Railroad – this time to take women away from states with restrictive medical laws.
A Handmaid’s Tale come to life, as Canada pledges to open its borders to American women seeking reproductive health services.
Engraved on the pediment of the Supreme Court building in Washington are the words, “Equal Justice Under Law.”
The Supreme Court’s imminent decision and the failure of Congress to enact legislation to overturn it betrays a US political system failing to protect all women equally under law.
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