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Aug. 19, 2022

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Jayne: Roe ruling goes beyond choice

By , Columbian Opinion Page Editor
Published:

It was an epiphany.

Some 25 years later, I still remember hearing the heartbeat of our firstborn for the first time. It was during an ultrasound, and for me there was a profound realization that a little person was in there. That has informed my personal feelings about abortion for the past quarter-century.

But guess what: Those are only my personal feelings about what is a very personal matter.

You can be against abortion and still wish for it to be safe, legal and rare, recognizing that the practice will continue. For some women, it is the best choice in a series of bad options. For others, it is preferable to carrying with them the product of rape or incest.

And you can be against abortion but still acknowledge that a strong majority of Americans believe it should be legal. We are not a direct democracy, but the opinion of the masses still should carry some weight.

And you can be against abortion and still be appalled by the Supreme Court decision allowing states to abolish it. The ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization not only ignores legal precedence, it is ill-gotten gains.

The appalling hypocrisy of Senate Republicans who refused to give Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing shall go down as one of the most un-democratic actions (small D) of our lifetimes; it ranked No. 1 until a losing presidential candidate attempted a coup to stop the legal transition of power.

In case you forget, Sen. Mitch McConnell said the people should decide on Garland’s nomination eight months later with a presidential election. Four years after that, the McConnell-led Senate confirmed a Trump appointee eight days before the election.

This end-justifies-the-means approach is the thing of military juntas and dictatorships, not a representative democracy.

So is the fact that two subsequent Republican nominees to the court gave misleading answers about Roe v. Wade standing as precedent during their confirmation hearings. They didn’t lie, despite common internet claims to the contrary; but they skirted the issue in their best legalese.

All of this, of course, pleases the Republican base, the core of which long has desired to overturn legalized abortion. To achieve that, they embraced a twice-divorced charlatan, a serial liar, an amoral narcissist as the improbable upholder of morality. As the old saying goes, if you let the devil take the wheel, pretty soon you crash into a ditch. Or something like that.

Yet while many people believe that selling out democracy is a small price to pay for overturning Roe v. Wade, they don’t realize that the invoice has not yet come due.

No, that is being prepared by Justice Clarence Thomas. In a concurring opinion, Thomas wrote that the court should reconsider all precedents decided under their 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. He specifically mentioned cases legalizing gay marriage, freedom to use contraceptives, and sodomy. In other words, the party of small government is deeply, deeply concerned with what you do in your bedroom.

Notably, Thomas did not mention the 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia, in which the court unanimously struck down laws against interracial marriage. Thomas is a Black man married to a white woman.

Which arrives at the crux of the Dobbs decision. For the first time, according to seasoned observers, the Supreme Court has rescinded rights it already granted. “For all the years of the American experiment, the parameters of human-rights debate have plodded predictably, but inexorably, in one direction,” notes columnist Leonard Pitts. “There have been setbacks, yes, but always along a path of more freedom for more people.”

And suddenly we are traveling backward in time, driven in that direction by a Supreme Court crafted out of a fever dream by a corrupt former president and a capitulate Senate.

Do the ends justify the means? Not if you believe in this country and fear for its future. And you don’t have to be pro-choice to have that epiphany.

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