Liberty at risk for millions of Americans

The Supreme Court will overrule Roe v. Wade according to a recent leaked majority opinion draft obtained by POLITICO. This breaks an almost 50-year precedent set by the landmark decision in 1973. Justice Alito’s majority opinion sets a dangerous criterion for the rollback of American’s liberties through the court system.

In the opinion, Justice Alito argues that “The Constitution makes no such reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” specifically pointing out the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment has been used to guarantee some rights not mentioned in the Constitution, but Alito points out the case Washington v. Glucksberg, which states that such rights must be “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” Justice Alito believes that the right to abortion is not included in this stipulation.

Justice Alito provides examples of the court overruling important constitutional decisions, but there is a difference between every case mentioned and the current Dobbs v. Jackson case. Dobbs is the only case that would take away liberties from Americans. Every single other case mentioned where a previous constitutional decision was overruled was to provide more freedom to Americans, like Obergefell v. Hodges which permitted same-sex marriage in 2015 or Miranda v. Arizona, the case that made it a requirement for police to read people their rights while being arrested.

The mention of the Obergefell case in particular worries many Americans. While the opinion explains that “abortion is fundamentally different” from issues such as “intimate sexual relations, contraception, and marriage,” but Mississippi’s governor Tate Reeves has shown that scenarios where one of the three items mentioned can and will be controlled when Roe is overturned. Mississippi is 1 of the 13 states in the U.S. with an abortion ‘trigger ban’ in place, which would ban abortion as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned. In an interview on May 9, Reeves alluded to the fact that Mississippi’s next target after abortion will be contraceptives. He claimed that banning birth control was not what “we’re focused on at this time” and that “life begins at conception,” not giving a clear answer when asked about banning IUDs or Plan B. This comes only days after a Louisiana bill advanced that would charge people who perform or undergo abortions with homicide, but that’s not all. Language in the bill states that the bill would grant constitutional rights to a fetus “from the moment of fertilization,” which, according to the Washington Post, “could also restrict the use of emergency contraception and other methods that seek to prevent a fertilized embryo from implanting in the uterus.”

The willingness of a governor to admit on national television that he is considering banning contraception not a week after the leaked Roe draft sets a precedent that may get out of control. Same sex marriage and contraception don’t necessarily fit the criteria set out for abortion in Justice Alito’s opinion. Neither are “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition” and neither of the issues were relevant at the time the constitution was written. Alito also makes the argument that Roe and Casey v. Planned Parenthood not only were “egregiously wrong,” but that they only “enflamed debate and deepened division.” If this argument is being made for abortion, why can’t one make it for same-sex marriage or contraception? Justice Alito does include the following in the opinion, stating that “[same sex marriage or contraception] do not support the right to obtain an abortion, and by the same token, our conclusion that the Constitution does not confer such a right does not undermine them in any way.” This doesn’t take away the fact that the same or similar rhetoric to what was used in Dobbs could still be used to challenge a case like Obergefell, potentially stripping marriage rights away from millions of Americans. Before the Louisiana bill was advanced and Governor Reeves refused to rule out banning contraception, the answer to this would have been much clearer, but it seems now that the decision made for the Dobbs case could threaten many other liberties enjoyed by Americans.

Repealing Roe through Dobbs creates a slippery slope of precedent for the next case that reaches the Supreme Court. Although it is nearly impossible to predict what will happen if a case surrounding contraceptives or same sex marriage reaches the Supreme Court, it is important to realize what all got the United States in this position in the first place. Dobbs shows that few previous precedents can’t be broken, and the liberty of many Americans is at risk.