The National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, made a splash at President Biden’s inauguration when she became the youngest poet to write and recite a piece at a presidential inauguration. She is known for focusing on issues of race, oppression, marginalization, and feminism in her art, and her performance at the inauguration brought her videos circulating around social media once again, especially this piece advocating against abortion bans. A lot of pro-life advocates are encountering this video for the first time, and it’s important for us to know how to effectively respond to the arguments she makes in it.
Now, I’m not the poet that Amanda is, so I won’t be trying to emulate her style in my responses. She’s a very talented communicator. I’m also not going to mock her or her arguments. Even though her arguments are, quite frankly, poor, mocking them isn’t beneficial to actually helping you know how to deal with them. So, I’m going to take Amanda’s arguments seriously and respond to the best versions of the arguments she’s making.
As somewhat of a follow-up post to my analysis of the deciding vote in Russo v. June Medical Services, I want to caution optimists and pragmatists on the pro-life side. There has long been an implicit deal whereby we are granted court appointees who will (theoretically) protect life and religious liberty as long as we go along with the general Republican platform. The problem, as Sen. Josh Hawley recently pointed out, is that the bargain hasn’t worked, and we don’t have a great reason to think it will suddenly start working in the future.
There has been much clamor about the “conservative” Roberts Court overturning Roe v. Wade. I’ll admit, I indulged some optimism at first, though it quickly became apparent that getting a majority to overturn long-standing precedent required at least one more conservative justice. But recent cases have illustrated how fickle the Republican-appointed justices are, as contrasted with the utter steadfastness of most Democratic appointees.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
First, the Chief
Let’s take a look, first, at the man in the center: Chief Justice John Roberts, who is quite happy to be a centrist even though he’s supposed to be a conservative. He seems to be concerned primarily with protecting the legitimacy of the Court (and implicitly the legal system), so that when they make a controversial decision the outcome of the case is still respected. Without respect for the integrity of the Supreme Court, the thinking goes, there is no real arbiter about law and the Constitution in America.
I’ve already demonstrated the problematic nature of Roberts’ insistence on institutional values, as he refused to overturn a precedent he voted against and maintains was incorrect. But, perhaps more tellingly, the appeal to the legitimacy of the Court was one of the premises of the Court’s decision to uphold Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. I’m not saying Roberts is dog-whistling that he won’t overturn Roe…but we shouldn’t count on him as the deciding vote.
The decision of the Supreme Court in June Medical Services v. Russo, a case which was previously covered in this blog, was a blow to pro-lifers trying to use the legislative process to chip away at abortion-on-demand. Chief Justice John Roberts, once again, joined with the liberal bloc to deliver a bad judgment. What went wrong?
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
One of the challenges of analyzing any jurisprudence by Roberts is that he seems to be inconsistent. Someone will guess his decision based on politics (he’s conservative…right?), and then he’ll flip. People talk about his commitment to the “legitimacy of the court,” and then he upholds a decision which he explicitly believes is wrong.
Roberts could have a grand, overarching plan for guiding jurisprudence over the course of decades, chipping away at old foundations to lay the groundwork for good decisions. But it more frequently feels like his pragmatism causes him to hurt conservative causes at critical junctures.
First, I’ll look at his explicit justification for the decision in Russo as he states it. I’m of the opinion that his surface-level obedience to stare decisis is not the only thing going on in his thinking. Roberts is playing something of a game with the rules of the Supreme Court, and I’ll explain what I think is going on later in this article.
You’ve likely heard about the documentary that premiered on FX, AKA Jane Roe, claiming to offer the true story of Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade. Pro-life and pro-choice people are interested in this story, regardless of how relevant it actually is (or should be) to our beliefs about abortion. Even if it feels off-topic, we need to be prepared to talk about this, and shifting to another topic too quickly will likely hurt your conversations about abortion.
I’m explaining our main thoughts below but feel free to use these links if you’d prefer to watch or listen to our discussion on the documentary that covers all of the points below, albeit in more detail.
Why does this matter, especially if our views on abortion shouldn’t be influenced by whether Roe was pro-choice or pro-life? The question this documentary poses isn’t what people should believe about abortion, but rather whether the pro-life movement is corrupt. We then need to answer whether it contains an accurate depiction of the modern pro-life movement.
Botched abortions. Filthy medical instruments. Unlicensed staff administering controlled substances.
These are some of the frightening practices that have pervaded abortion facilities across Louisiana. Women deserve to be safe from negligent practices like this. But in Louisiana, patients weren’t sufficiently protected—some of them paid a terrible price.
Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear a case called June Medical Services v. Russo that will decide if a Louisiana law addressing these problems will be upheld.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes.
A Heartbreaking Story
One woman named Brenda J. went to a Louisiana abortion facility to get an abortion. During the procedure, the abortion practitioner perforated her uterus and left her bleeding on the operating table for over seven hours. The abortion practitioner finally sent Brenda to the hospital, but he didn’t call an ambulance. He had a staff member take Brenda in their car and instructed the staff member to lie to the hospital about what had happened.
As a result, the doctors and staff at the hospital did not know Brenda was suffering from a botched abortion procedure, so they didn’t know how to properly treat her. Days later, they found Brenda’s baby’s skull in her uterus. The doctors treated Brenda as best they could and they were able to save Brenda’s life—but not her torn, infected uterus. Because of the abortion practitioner’s decision to prioritize his reputation and convenience over Brenda’s life, Brenda was left infertile.
Several Louisiana women have stories like Brenda’s, and Louisiana legislators realized they had a dangerous health and safety issue on their hands. So, in 2014, the legislature passed Act 620, the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, to protect women from incompetent abortion practitioners. The bill passed with strong bipartisan support, with a vote of 88-5 in the House and 34-3 in the Senate.