Damning Americans’ Freedom

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

“The basis of a democratic state is liberty.”
– Aristotle

The Supreme Court, banning abortion just because it could, has served notice that it’s no longer an impartial arbiter of the law but is driven instead by a minority radical conservative ideology that includes religious influence.

Bottom line: You cannot trust its future rulings to be based on neutrality. Respect for it, chiefly among the most vulnerable and who conservatives sneeringly describe as “libs,” has vanished.

The court has been slip-sliding in the direction of extremist Republican conservatism since its opening in October with a new 6-3 right-wing majority, three of the six appointed by Trump, the disgraceful and disgraced nemesis of most Americans.

The ruling destroying Roe v. Wade was as arrogant, disruptive, irresponsible, unnecessary and grounded in as much ignorance as Trump. It further worsened the division in America, only about half of the states able to provide abortions. The rest are on their own.

The High Court, lowering its esteem to the nadir, now should be viewed as a politicized body, contrary to what Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Clarence Thomas have stated publicly. Yes, there really is such a thing as a Republican court and a Democratic court.

Its ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Organization, expected because of the leak to Politico of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s preliminary judgment, marked a significant, democratically unhealthy and remarkable turning point in the court’s history by deleting settled law.

We the people entrusted the Supreme Court to watch over us, to ensure that what we face as individuals and as a society is fair and represents our understanding of true traditional justice. Not anymore.

It could have chipped away at Roe. Instead, as Roberts reportedly tried to prevent, the more hard-right justices sneakily grabbed at the chance to use the challenge to a Mississippi law to get their way after 49 years of trying, like a petulant child.

They couldn’t let it stand, driven in part by their conservative religious and evangelical constituents eager to put their ideological stamp on their view of life beginning at conceptualization, not at birth. In doing so, they hurled a spear into the heart of women, into the majority of Americans, into a sacred freedom enshrined in the universally recognized right to privacy and into our cherished democracy that we take for granted.

And they could care less, reveling in their monumental victory over smothering a sacrosanct right embedded in the law.

The dissenting liberals – Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – said it all in defining why the conservative majority voted to scrap the constitutional right to abortion that two generations of women relied on:

“The majority’s refusal even to consider the life-altering consequences of reversing Roe and [1992’s Planned Parenthood vs.] Casey [that reaffirmed Roe] is a stunning indictment of its decision. The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them. The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law.”

Christians they may be, but the majority justices sinned against their neighbors and countrymen for violating Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as recounted in Matthew 7:12, according to the King James version of the Bible:

“Therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” That’s the basis for the Golden Rule – Do unto others . . .

But these justices did not perform justice; their ruling struck fool’s gold. And that vein runs the length of our democracy: same-sex marriage, contraception, laws protecting LGBTQ+ folks — all future targets of Thomas. He told us so.

Let’s step back a moment to take a closer look at what we’re facing, widening the lens to include more than the judicial branch and political aberrations like Trump. Reporter Dexter Filkins spells it out in The New Yorker’s profile of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a formidable Trump clone but armed with smarts.

“His job as governor, he said [in a speech in February to the Conservative Political Action Conference] was to fight the horsemen of the left: critical race theory, ‘Faucian dystopia,’ uncontrolled immigration, Big Tech, ‘left-wing oligarchs,’ ‘Soros-funded prosecutors,’ transgender athletes, and the ‘corporate media.’”
“’In times like these, there is no substitute for courage,’ he said. ‘We need people all over the country to put on that full armor of God. We have only begun to fight.’”

God’s armor? What happened to the separation of church and state?

Back to the start of the Crusades in the 11th century that were intended by Christians to seize Jerusalem and the surrounding area from Muslims.

And I thought we only were thrown back to the 1950s. That’s when little me with glasses was choking a big kid in my fourth grade class for teasing me during a lesson, was sent to the principal and was left back to third grade for a week.

DeSantis is a possible contender for the presidency in 2024, regardless of whether Trump runs. He could win. These politicians must be defeated, whether at the polls or, as New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote, “to make significant changes to the court” using the constitutional process.

“The power to check the Supreme Court is there, in the Constitution,” he wrote. “The task now is to seize it.”

It would fall to Congress to do it. That would be difficult, considering the Senate is split 50-50 and slippery Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is in charge of the Republicans.

The majority pledges that it will not try to roll back any other laws that conservatives find controversial, most sex-related. I don’t believe them.

Why? Because two of the three Trump-appointed right-wing justices – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — said during their confirmation hearings that Roe v. Wade was settled law and thus, by implication, untouchable. Gorsuch even said Roe no longer is “hotly contested” and “We move forward.”

Forward into quicksand?

So much for the truth from two would-be Supreme Court justices, who either have amnesia or do not have consciences. The third, Amy Coney Barrett, said only many calls have been made to overturn Roe “but that does not mean that Roe should be overruled.” But she voted to do just that.

These extremists, absent the bombast of Trump, are a threat to everything this country has been building since its founding, with hiccups and upheavals along the way, the Civil War included. Get them out before they destroy our democracy.

America’s cold civil war, which I’ve referred to before, is heating up.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.