(Excerpts below from historian Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American newsletter, May 2, 2022)
“Tonight, news broke of a leaked draft of what appears to be Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s majority decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing access to abortion as a constitutional right.
“That news is an alarm like the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision declaring both that Black Americans had no rights that a white man was bound to respect and that Congress had no power to prohibit human enslavement in the territories. The Dred Scott decision left the question of enslavement not to the national majority, which wanted to prohibit it from western lands, but to state and territorial legislatures that limited voting to white men….
“We are in a weird moment, in which Democrats are trying to shore up democracy while Republicans are actively working to undermine it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a statement after the draft leaked, calling the draft ‘one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.’ They noted that the justices lied to senators to get confirmed, saying they considered Roe v. Wade settled law, and are now—if the draft is confirmed—stripping away from American women a constitutional right they have held for 50 years. (emphases mine throughout)
“’The party of Lincoln and Eisenhower has now completely devolved into the party of Trump,’ Pelosi and Schumer wrote. ‘Every Republican Senator who supported Senator McConnell and voted for Trump Justices pretending that this day would never come will now have to explain themselves to the American people.’…
“And so here we are. A minority, placed in control of the U.S. Supreme Court by a president who received a minority of the popular vote and then, when he lost reelection, tried to overturn our democracy, is explicitly taking away a constitutional right that has been protected for fifty years. Its attack on federal protection of civil rights applies not just to abortion, but to all the protections put in place since World War II: the right to use birth control, marry whomever you wish, live in desegregated spaces, and so on.
“The draft opinion says the state legislatures are the true heart of our democracy and that they alone should determine abortion laws in the states. But Republican-dominated legislatures have also curtailed the right to vote. When Democrats in Congress tried to protect voting rights, Senate Republicans killed it with the filibuster.
“Tonight’s news is an alarm like the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which gave a few white men who controlled state legislatures power over the American majority.”
And from Richardson’s May 3 newsletter on the same topic:
“It seems likely that the right-wing justices, who are demonstrating their radicalism by overturning a 50-year precedent, are prepared to undermine a wide range of constitutional rights on the grounds—however inaccurate—that those rights are not deeply rooted in the justices’ own version of this nation’s history and tradition.”
Note: The paragraph below refers to the portion of Alito’s draft memo that states “…the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
“Protesters turned out in front of the Supreme Court and across the country today vowing that women will not go backward. As actress Ashley Nicole Black tweeted: ‘There’s a particular slap to the face of being told we can vote for abortion rights, by the court that gutted voting rights.’”
Please share your reactions to what appears to be a seismic event for our country.