Marble Falls We’ve always been clear in the work that I’ve shared with so many others that’s the “rule of law” is little more than a thin sheet covering the rule of politics and the wielding of hard-fisted power by those who are winning. There are rationalizations galore and there are innumerable posers, in and out of judicial robes, hiding behind them, but their decisions belong to the category of “blunt force trauma,” not some dusty contorted language in some law library. Today we’re talking about guns and women’s choices, but tomorrow we could be talking about the ability of any governmental administrative agency to work or same-sex marriage or anything on Justice Clarence Thomas’ list, other than Loving, since he personally benefits from that particular decision. I once worked closely with someone who argued that “anything could be rationalized,” and that’s true for all the manifestations of power. Truth, justice, fair play, and much more are all collateral damage to power.
Linda Greenhouse’s columns in the Times on the current court and its decisions are eviscerating. She’s been there for all 50 years, and, unlike the rest of us, including it seems many of the current benchwarmers in the Supreme Court building, she’s actually read and studied the decisions. She can quote the Justices in one era back to those in this era. Speaking of these cases, she argues that the only way to understand the decisions they are making now is to realize that they are laying down new laws and upsetting precedents simply “because they can.” Her opinion is that the credibility of the court is gone now, and she’s disappointed. In the world where we work, there’s no surprise, because we didn’t ever swallow the pretense. Now it’s just a lot more work to be done.
Where right and left agree, taking Ross Douthat, the Times’ voice of conservativism, as the argument from the other side, is that the majority justices are smoking their own product if they believe, as Justice Kavanagh wrote, that this settles the matter. He argues that this is just the end of one stage and the beginning of another, just as Greenhouse offers a laundry list of the issues around choice and abortion that now come forward, even in this revolutionary handoff of a huge mess to the states by the Court.
In our work, we will see the consequences and the lack of preparation for them as Douthat has underlined. The majority of abortions are now performed at the request of lower income women. They will be the ones without sufficient resources to navigate the travel and expense of finding alternatives, similar to the story of the Texas teen and her family in a recent New Yorkerpiece. We already know the US Senate has refused to continue the Biden child care subsidy program or much of anything else that would offer support to these women and their families trying to feed, clothe, and support more mouths around their table. Power and politicians are not going to put up or shut up, but privilege will find a way to cope.
One remaining question is a head scratcher for me. What kind of pretzel twists are they going to try and devise for states to claim control of US mails or to prevent travel between states by desperate women and the people who love them? In further dividing the country, is the Court going to let states build walls to stop travel or establish the equivalent of passport control at their borders to make sure pregnant women have no entry or egress? Will this be another type of “blue law”, where next door to the friendly liquor store on the other side of the county or state line will be a pill dispenser or accommodating clinic? Are we about to see another type of underground railroad escorting women from red to blue? Are we going to see women heed President Biden’s plea and surge to the polls to express the majority power at the ballot box?
The only thing clearer than the fact that the young and the poor will pay for this power play is that the fight has just begun and will now move from the courts to the streets everywhere, one way or another.