April 12, 2024

can no longer want what they wanted

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective                                                                     
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
They can longer want what they wanted
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift         
          WASHINGTON — Abortion, no longer a federal right, is increasingly becoming a state right, the unintended legacy of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his cohorts.
          They repeatedly attempted legislative action to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights case and repeatedly failed. So, they turned to the judicial branch, and finally found their way by adding Pres. Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court justices to the three sitting conservative justices to reach a 6-3 Court majority.
          McConnell engineered two Supreme Court seats, first by denying Pres. Barack Obama appointee Merrick Garland (nominated eight months before the presidential election) a hearing for 293 days and then confirming newly inaugurated Pres. Donald Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch on January 31, 2017. Then with the height of hypocrisy, McConnell rushed Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation through just eight days before the 2020 election. For McConnell, eight months were too close, eight days were just fine.
          However, the problem of manipulating Court confirmations in a democracy when public sentiment is in opposition means that public sentiment usually prevails. So, McConnell and company basked in their victory without realizing their victory was a defeat.
          It was a defeat come to life by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whose life and legacy recently were honored at a funeral service at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. She was credited with shaping rulings on abortion rights that reflected where the broad center of the country was on the issue.
          Although a conservative justice appointed by President Ronald Reagan, she forged an alliance in 1992 with two other Republican appointees, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice David Souter, that saved Roe and upheld the right of a woman to get an abortion before viability.
          Unlike the current brand of conservative justices, O’Connor was a believer in precedent and not moving the Court too quickly. Her carefully calibrated decisions on hot button issues were in keeping with her judicial philosophy. In the final analysis, the future belongs to her because the goals set out in the Roe-defeating Dobbs decision have been delegated to the states where the people have a voice.
          Wherever access to abortion is on the ballot, strong majorities flock to the polls to affirm the right the Court took away. In a dozen states, measures will be before the voters next year to make abortion a state right.
          Deep red state Kansas led the way, handily defeating a measure that would have stricken abortion rights from the state constitution. Michigan, California and Vermont followed with similar measures to enshrine abortion rights, as did the red states of Montana and Kentucky. And any notion that the power of freedom over your body was losing steam was put to rest just last month, when voters in Ohio approved a pro-abortion rights referendum.
          The majority of the electorate, men and women, support the right to abortion with reasonable limits, even in Texas, where the recent ordeal of Kate Cox struck a chord. She had to leave the state to get an abortion because doctors feared jail sentences if they aborted a doomed fetus that was threatening her life and future fertility.
          McConnell and company must no longer want what they wanted.
          Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2023 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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