The Very Worst Person We Should Have Let Decide Our Abortion Policy

The New York Times’s Peter Baker called this week’s leak of an Alito-penned draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade “one of the biggest earthquakes in American domestic politics in a generation.” (Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward of Politico broke the story.) No doubt about that.

It’s early days to say the least, but let’s dig into just a few aspects of this rapidly unfolding development, one that promises to consume and reshape US politics for months or years to come, and yet another major turn in what is very clearly right wing autocracy on the march.

+ The bluntness of the Court’s decision.

For years pundits, experts, and others in the SCOTUS peanut gallery predicted that the Court would subtly chip away at Roe rather than bluntly overturning it. The Court has long been signaling a gutting of Roe, a process we have watched slowly but inexorably unfold, with sickening milestones along the way, like Texas’s vigilante anti-choice law passed last September. All the experts thought that pattern of death by a thousand cuts would continue.

So Alito’s opinion in the case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization came as quite a shock: a full-throated, balls-to-the-wall extremist screed that could have been written by the most virulent anti-choice radical you can imagine. As the lawyer and writer Jill Filipovic wrote on Substack: “I thought this decision would have a lighter touch, that the Court would functionally overturn Roe without formally overturning Roe. I underestimated their radicalism.”

She wasn’t alone. In Slate, the veteran justice correspondent Dahlia Lithwick writes that if some version of this decision comes to pass, “years of conventional wisdom about the court and its concerns for its own legitimacy will be proved wrong.”

Every single court watcher who spoke in terms of baby steps, incrementalism, or “chipping away” at one of the most vitally important precedents in modern history will have been wrong. Those who suggested the court would never do something so huge and so polarizing just before the November midterms will have been wrong. And the people who assured us that Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were moderate centrists who cared deeply about the…

Robert Edwards / The King's Necktie

Writer, filmmaker, and veteran — blogging at The King’s Necktie @TheKingsNecktie