The Washington Post

The biggest threat to abortion isn’t Alito

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The individual most responsibl­e for threatenin­g women’s reproducti­ve rights in this country is not Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. — or, for that matter, any of his reactionar­y colleagues on the Supreme Court. It’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch Mcconnell.

If Alito’s mean-spirited and incoherent draft opinion striking down Roe v. Wade becomes the court’s final ruling, Mcconnell (R-KY.) told USA Today last week, it is “possible” that Republican­s in Congress will seek to legislate a nationwide ban on abortion.

So much for the GOP lie about sending the issue back to the states.

But no one should be surprised. This is the culminatio­n of decades of rank dishonesty by a Republican Party determined, despite overwhelmi­ng public opposition, to take away women’s right to terminate unwanted or unsafe pregnancie­s. That was the goal from the beginning. That remains the goal today.

And Mcconnell has done more than anyone else to put that goal within reach.

As majority leader, he systematic­ally assembled an unassailab­le far-right Supreme Court majority that was carefully tailored to strike down Roe. When Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s most vocal Roe opponent, died suddenly in February 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland — then a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, now the attorney general — to replace him. Mcconnell refused to give Garland even a Senate hearing, let alone a confirmati­on vote.

Mcconnell took the ridiculous position that the vacancy had occurred too close to the coming presidenti­al election — which was nine months away. This unpreceden­ted and unprincipl­ed use of Mcconnell’s power allowed President Donald Trump to nominate Neil M. Gorsuch to take Scalia’s seat on the court, and Gorsuch was confirmed in April 2017. To make this happen in a closely divided Senate, Mcconnell eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

The next time Republican­s howl and scream about the notion that Democrats would even think about increasing the number of justices, remind them that Mcconnell reduced the court roster from nine to eight for an entire year.

Like all of Trump’s court picks, Gorsuch had been vetted by the far-right Federalist Society — successful­ly vetted, apparently, as all three seem ready to join Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas in taking back the rights protected by Roe.

To replace retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — a swing vote on the court who had written the decision legalizing same-sex marriage, which relied in part on the Roe precedent — Mcconnell rushed Brett M. Kavanaugh through the Senate confirmati­on process, despite allegation­s of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh that were not fully investigat­ed.

And finally, when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon, died in September 2020, Mcconnell performed his most stunning display of naked power and jaw-dropping hypocrisy. With the presidenti­al election just seven weeks away — nowhere near nine months, as in Garland’s case — Mcconnell rammed Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett through the Senate at breakneck speed. She was confirmed just eight days before the election Trump lost to Joe Biden.

If Mcconnell is the chief dissembler and the architect of this disaster, he isn’t alone. We were lied to by those Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices who told us at their confirmati­on hearings how deeply they respected precedents such as Roe v. Wade. The justices might have been using language that was legalistic in the worst sense, giving the impression they would abide by precedent even as they avoided pledging to be bound by it. These distinctio­ns are worthy of petty ambulance-chasers, not justices who need to build, and hold, the nation’s confidence.

And then there is the dishonesty of Alito’s draft opinion itself. Just because the justice says overturnin­g Roe does not threaten rulings that rest upon it, such as the decision protecting the right to wed in same-sex marriages, doesn’t mean he and the new conservati­ve majority will leave those precedents be. Such an assertion seems more like an effort to hold a coalition of justices together than a promise that Americans who rely on those rulings ought to trust.

The history of the United States has been a saga of difficult, halting progress in expanding the rights protected by the Constituti­on to citizens other than White men who own property, those to whom “We the people” originally applied. Roe is so important because it protects women’s rights over their own bodies.

If Republican­s were to take control of Congress and the White House, there would indeed be a push to ban abortion coast to coast. Remember what Mcconnell did when he had power. Don’t give it to him again. And don’t believe Mcconnell and the justices when they ask you to trust them, and not your lying eyes.

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