The nation is rightly aroused about the leaked, “draft” Roe v. Wade opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and endorsed by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. This decision heralds the reversal of protections Roe has offered for almost 50 years. I am infuriated!
What infuriates me more is the feckless, feeble and lame justification given this decision and the words used in its defense since exposure. Those of us who are incensed by this decision are insulted further with the assertion that this decision is “only a draft”! Those who try to spin an excuse for this decision perceive us to be sufficiently ignorant to accept this decision as an innocuous, “harmless” determination that, ultimately, will have limited impact on the social fabric of the nation.
It is justifiable reasoning that allows critics to believe that Alito’s decision opens doors to other decisions restrictive to other rights. Alito telegraphed it in his decision when he wrote: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion.” He otherwise suggests that a reversal of Roe would not impact on other “privacy-based” rights, but asserts the limitation of any rights not specifically mentioned in the Constitution or those “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” Since Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett all acknowledged Roe as stare decisis — law set in precedence — in their respective confirmation hearings, any claims of respecting laws not specifically addressed in the Constitution or deeply rooted in history and tradition are suspect. If past actions and attitudes proffer future conduct, the future reversal of other rights appears predictable.
Using a so-called strict interpretation of the Constitution as the basis for his decision, Alito places any legal determination that is not specifically expressed therein in the crosshairs of this Supreme Court. At some time in the future, can we expect the elimination of marriage equality? Will interracial marriage be made illegal with the reversal of the Loving Decision? Can we look forward to a reversal of the Brown v. Board of Education decision? How far back on the historical continuum of social justice are these five justices willing to return us.
I have learned and always believed the Constitution to be a living document that reflected the will and purpose of “the majority.” Although not deeply rooted in the history or tradition of this nation, the social participation and interaction of African Americans and other groups classified as OTHERS results from an awakening to evolving moral and social imperatives that require the modification of laws and mores.
This conservative court has demonstrated a willingness to remove any impediment to their emotional comfort and that of the minority of the population they represent. It is that same minority that refuses to acknowledge the ugly truth of this nation’s history and oppressive nature of its current existence. They are the same minority that speaks of Christian values yet is willing to react violently against the demonstration of Christian compassion.
The lines have been drawn. We must resist. It’s time to revisit and reflect on the words of Lutheran Pastor Martin Martin Niemöller’s rebuke of an oppressive Adolf Hitler:
First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women.