When Benjamin Franklin was asked after a session of the Constitutional Convention, “What kind of a government have you given us?” he is said to have replied “A democracy, if you can keep it.” From recent events, the United States is on the verge of losing its democracy.
The United Sates House Committee hearings probing the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol to stop the certification of Joe Biden as President and 2 United States Supreme Court decisions reveals without any doubt that elections have consequences. What is even more sinister is that the radical conservative right has a strangle hold over the United States Supreme Court and the Republican party that has now become a threat to our Democracy.
ROE V. WADE OVERTURNED
On June 24, the United States Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court ruling takes away a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, abandoning almost 50 years of precedent, and paves the way for individual states to ban abortion. It is a decision rendered by the 6-3 conservative majority. The ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states. According to opinion polls, the Roe v. Wade reversal puts the court at odds with a majority of Americans who favored preserving a woman’s right to choose.
The decision was the culmination of 50 years of efforts by abortion opponents. It was made possible by an emboldened, very conservative United States Supreme Court that has been fortified by 3 appointees of former President Donald Trump. Those conservative judges are Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch. The ruling came a month after the leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito saying the court would reverse Roe v. Wade.
Supreme Court Justice Alito wrote that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong the day they were decided and must be overturned. Alito wrote the authority to regulate abortion rests with the political branches, the individual states, not the courts. Alito wrote:
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”
Joining Alito in the majority opinion were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett with the latter three justices appointed by Donald Trump.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented. The dissenting justices wrote:
“With sorrow–for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection–we dissent.”
SUPREME COURT JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a “strict constructionist” in interpreting the United States Constitution. “Strict constructionist” stands for the proposition that that a constitutional right does not exist if it is not specifically provided for in the constitution and such rights are reserved for the states to decide. Such rights include same sex marriage, access to birth control, the right to privacy and perhaps even inter racial marriage.
Justice Thomas writes that the Supreme Court should reconsider rights like birth control and same sex marriage in future decisions. Thomas agreed that the Roe v. Wade reversal ruling itself does not apply to other cases saying “the court’s abortion cases are unique” because they involve protecting a life and justices only considered this one set of circumstances, rather than rights granted through “substantive due process” as a whole.
However, Justice Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion:
“In future cases, we should follow the text of the Constitution, which sets forth certain substantive rights that cannot be taken away, and adds, beyond that, a right to due process when life, liberty, or property is to be taken away. … Substantive due process conflicts with that textual command and has harmed our country in many ways. Accordingly, we should eliminate it from our jurisprudence at the earliest opportunity.”
Justice Thomas specifically said the court “should consider” reversing other precedents and he wrote:
“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. … After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated.”
Thomas argued that using the due process clause to uphold these rights is a “legal fiction” that’s “particularly dangerous” and believes the court should issue a ruling saying the court cannot grant civil rights using that legal argument.
Thomas’ concurring opinion tracks with an argument abortion rights groups made for months leading up to the court’s abortion decision to reverse Roe v Wadesaying that the Constitution doesn’t protect a right to an abortion. The reversal will likely jeopardize other rights the court established under the 14th Amendment. Thomas referred to landmark opinions that blocked states from banning contraception, sex by same-sex couples and gay marriage.
The Constitution doesn’t explicitly guarantee a right to abortion, but a 7-2 majority opinion in Roe v. Wade held that the 14th Amendment’s protection of “liberty” includes the right to terminate a pregnancy. Several of the justices in Roe v. Wade drew on another landmark opinion decided eight years earlier that legalized contraception for married couples.
With his dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas invites a reversal of many constitutional rights not found in the constitution, including gay marriage. The United States Constitution also does not contain any provision that marriage is a constitutional right. Thomas is married to a white woman and the question is if he will also want to reverse the case of Loving v. Virginia where the United Sates Supreme Court case struck down state laws banning interracial marriage in the United States.
The plaintiffs in the case were Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and Black woman whose marriage was deemed illegal according to Virginia state law. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that “anti-miscegenation”statutes were unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. The decision is often cited as a watershed moment in the dismantling of “Jim Crow” race laws.
STATES TO DECIDE
With the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the issue of a woman’s right to choose must now be decided by each individual state.
“More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and more than half are now done with pills, not surgery, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri are among 13 states, mainly in the South and Midwest, that already have laws on the books to ban abortion in the event Roe was overturned. Another half-dozen states have near-total bans or prohibitions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
In roughly a half-dozen other states, including West Virginia and Wisconsin, the fight will be over dormant abortion bans that were enacted before Roe was decided in 1973 or new proposals to sharply limit when abortions can be performed, according to the Guttmacher Institute.”
The link to quoted source material is here:
ABORTIONS STILL LEGAL IN NEW MEXICO BUT IMPACTS STATE HEALTH CARE
In 2021, the New Mexico Legislature repealed a 1969 abortion ban which made abortion a crime to end a pregnancy except if the pregnancy endangered the health of the mother or incest. The 1969 criminal law had been unenforceable because of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, but the law would have been reinstated with the Supreme Court’s reversal.
The reversal of Roe v. Wade will result in a health care crisis and have a major impact on New Mexico’s woman’s health care system. Of the four states sharing a border with New Mexico, 3 have already placed or will soon place restrictions on abortions. In September, Arizona enacted a law that bans abortion after 15 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest. Since Texas passed a law banning most abortions after six weeks, New Mexico’s abortion providers have been dealing with an increase of Texan patients seeking abortions.
“About 1,700 patients from Texas have accessed abortion services at Planned Parenthood clinics in New Mexico since the restrictions were enacted. Previously, the clinics saw about 400 Texas patients each year. At the University of New Mexico Center for Reproductive Health, wait times increased from 24 hours to two to three weeks after the enactment of the Texas legislation in September, according to Dr. Lisa Hofler, clinical vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and chief of the division of Complex Family Planning at the University of New Mexico. This resulted in a 150% increase in patients seeking abortion care services over the previous year.”
The link to quoted news source material is here:
GAY RIGHTS’S IN NEW MEXICO
One case specifically cited by Justice Clarence Thomas as one he wants to revisit and reverse is Obergefell v. Hodges. On April 28, 2015, the United State Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges over whether or not gay marriage is a right guaranteed by the US Constitution, and whether or not gay marriages performed in states where it has been legalized must be recognized in states which ban the practice. On June 26, 2015, the Court ruled 5-4 that gay marriage is a constitutional right, meaning that all 50 states must allow it and that all existing bans are invalid. The decision concluded a decades-long battle over whether gay marriage should be legalized.
Even if in the future the United States Supreme Court revisits gay marriage, the reversal will likely be one where the United Sates Supreme court rules that it an issue, like abortion, to be decided by the states. On December 19, 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the state must provide same-sex couples with the same marriage rights as different-sex couples, making New Mexico the 17th U.S. state to recognize same-sex marriage. In 2019, the New Mexico legislature enacted legislation that codified same-sex marriage legislation. The same sex marriage bill passed unanimously in the New Mexico House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Although the NM Supreme Court upheld same sex marriage in its 2013 ruling, the added protection was viewed as essential and a protection to court reversal.
WOMANS’ RIGHT TO CHOOSE FRONT AND CENTER IN NM GOVERNORS RACE
With the reversal of Roe v. Wade, a woman’s right to choose for now will be the dominate issue in the New Mexico Governor’s race. Both Democrat Governor Michell Lujan Grisham and Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti quickly staked out their positions on the issue.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham characterized the decades-long fight to roll back abortion rights as a “war on women”. Lujan Grisham had this to say:
“The moment we have long dreaded has arrived, and our nation will be the worse for it. … This ruling will destroy both lives and livelihoods. Make no mistake: this is a war on women. The effort is not to protect life but to diminish it, to control women and relegate them as second-class citizens. Today, a new generation of women will be forced to face a future where they cannot seek safe, legal abortons. A future where they must navigate an increasingly draconian patchwork of restrictions to get care; a future where they live in perpetual fear that they may be required to carry a pregnancy against their will — conceived under horrific circumstances like rape or incest, or that may risk their very life; a future where they fear that their neighbor might report them or their doctors to the police if they attempt to seek care in another state.”
Republican nominee for Governor Mark Ronchetti had this to say:
“Today’s court ruling paves the way for a measured dialogue on the issue of abortion that will save lives and should result in policies that are more mainstream and reflect our shared values. As governor, I would seek a middle ground with our legislature that ends the practice of late-term and partial-birth abortion.”
SUPREME COURT EXPANDS GUN RIGHTS
On June 23, the United States Supreme Court expanded gun rights and ruled that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. The decision came out as Congress and states debate gun-control legislation. About one-quarter of the U.S. population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, which struck down a New York gun law. The high court’s first major gun decision in more than a decade split the court 6-3, with the court’s conservatives in the majority and liberals in dissent.
The US Supreme Court decision struck down a 100 year old New York law requiring people to demonstrate a particular need for carrying a gun in order to get a license to carry a gun in a concealed way in public. The justices said that requirement violates the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that the Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” That right is not a “second-class right,” Thomas wrote. “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”
President Joe Biden said in a statement:
[I am]“deeply disappointed … [the Supreme Court ruling] contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all.”
About one-quarter of the U.S. population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, which struck down a New York gun law.
UNITED SATES HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARINGS PROBING THE JANUARY 6, 2021 CAPITAL RIOTS TO OVERTURN 2020 ELECTION
The United States House Committee hearings investigating the January 6 attack on the United States capitol to stop the congressional certification of President Joe Bidden is laying out sufficient evidence that should allow prosecutors to indict former President Donald J. Trump.
The 5 hearings have also made it abundantly clear how close the country came to a coup but for the actions of dedicated public servants that put the country, the constitution and their oaths of office over the interest of fascist Donald Trump.
The main themes that have emerged so far:
“AN UNSETTLING NARRATIVE: During the first hearings, the committee described in vivid detail what it characterized as an attempted coup orchestrated by the former president that culminated in the assault on the Capitol. At the heart of the gripping story were three main players: Trump, the Proud Boys and a Capitol Police officer.
CREATING ELECTION LIES: In the second hearing, the panel showed how Trump ignored aides and advisers as he declared victory prematurely and relentlessly pressed claims of fraud that he was told were wrong. “He’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff,” William P. Barr, the former attorney general, said of Mr. Trump during a videotaped interview.
PRESSURING PENCE: In the fourth hearing, the committee showed how Trump continued pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to go along with a plan to overturn his loss even after he was told it was illegal, according to testimony laid out by the panel during the third hearing. The committee showed how Mr. Trump’s actions led his supporters to storm the Capitol, sending Mr. Pence fleeing for his life.
FAKE ELECTOR PLAN: The committee used its fourth hearing to detail how Trump was personally involved in a scheme to put forward fake electors. The panel also presented fresh details on how the former president leaned on state officials to invalidate his defeat, opening them up to violent threats when they refused.
STRONG ARMING THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: During the fifth hearing, the panel explored Trump’s wide-ranging and relentless scheme to misuse the Justice Department to keep himself in power. The panel also presented evidence that at least half a dozen Republican members of Congress sought pre-emptive pardons.”
The link to the full unedited New York Times article is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
In 2016, this country elected a President who after he lost reelection in 2020, lied that the election was rigged and stolen and tried to overturn the election. The same President appointed 3 Supreme Court Justices who were hell bent on overturning a woman’s right to choose and who ruled the second amendment gun rights are far more important than woman’s right to choose. A Republican President who was impeached but who Republican Senators put party loyalty and loyalty to Trump over loyalty to their country and refused to vote to confict.
United Sates House Committee hearings probing the January 6, 2021 and the two Supreme Court decisions, one abolishing the constitutional right to choose and one expanding gun rights, reveal in no uncertain terms that the conservative radical right are in full control of the Supreme Court and in turn our democracy and that we are on the verge of losing it. It appears that the only way to stopping it is to vote, and even then there remains doubt in we can keep it.