SCOTUS decision shows importance of elections
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There are myriad lessons and endless points of discussion to be drawn by last Friday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that ruled the Constitution of the United States generally protects a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.
Most of the lessons are specific to the American experience, and are illustrative of an ever-deepening ideological polarization within U.S. society. The nation’s democratic institutions and, indeed, democracy itself seem very much to be at risk in the tumultuous months and years that lie ahead.
There’s one lesson from the Roe v. Wade unravelling, however, that transcends America’s national disagreements and would be well heeded by citizens of this and every other democracy in the world:
The nation’s democratic institutions and, indeed, democracy itself seem very much to be at risk in the tumultuous months and years that lie ahead.
As much as it has been fairly argued that the overturning of the abortion decision is the culmination of decades of determined effort in political and judicial circles by America’s anti-choice Republican right, the simple fact of the matter is the death of Roe v. Wade would almost surely not have come to pass had Donald Trump not been elected U.S. president.
One of the oft-repeated promises in Mr. Trump’s ultimately successful 2016 election campaign was that he would fulfil Republican’s long-held dream of an enduring conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. By appointing justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, the former president delivered on that promise.
That the three Trump-appointed justices appear to have been untruthful in their confirmation hearings, during which each was asked whether they would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade and each answered they considered it settled precedent is irrelevant at this point. The decision has been made, and the rights of American women have consequently been dialed back half a century or more.
Let abortion decision radicalize you
Well, it’s happened.
The thing so many people told us we were hysterical feminists for worrying about. The thing we were told would never happen.
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, killing the constitutional right to abortion in America. The impact of this decision will be immediately felt, especially in the 13 states with “trigger laws” that ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned.
Several states already have near-total bans on abortion, making them illegal after six weeks, which is before many women even know they are pregnant. Some states are now empowered to blow the dust off their moldering abortion laws, such as Wisconsin, which has an 1849 abortion ban on the books.
The U.S. Supreme Court — whose members are unelected and appointed for life — has always been subject to political manipulation by whichever side held power at the moment a vacancy was created, but the process has become increasingly partisan and rancorous in recent years. And delivering a decision that runs counter to the opinion of the majority of the American public — as last Friday’s clearly does — illustrates the danger inherent in the politicization of a public institution such as the Supreme Court.
In Canada, the highest court and appointments thereto tend not to be the subject of deep-rooted partisan chicanery. But that doesn’t mean it, or other fundamental public institutions, are immune to such political interference.
Witness, for example, recent promises by Pierre Poilievere, the leading candidate for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. Mr. Poilievre has vowed that if elected leader and, subsequently, prime minister, he will fire the governor of the Bank of Canada, the independent body that sets monetary policy for the nation.
Few people fully understand what the BoC does, and Mr. Poilievre has capitalized on this lack of public knowledge by casting the central bank’s governor as a villain worthy of scorn. He promises to “replace him with a new governor who would reinstate our low-inflation mandate, protect the purchasing power of our dollar and honour the working people who are in those jobs” — in other words, turn an independent policy-setting institution into a body subservient to the ideological whims of the government of the day.
It’s pure populist political calculation whose cynicism and opportunism are fully apparent. And if Mr. Poilievre sensed there was advantage to be gained by rekindling the debate over abortion access in this country, is there any doubt he would seek to exploit it?