Hello! It’s the weekend, this is The Weekender. ☕
As jarring as the Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights feels, much of it is unsurprising.
The majority opinion is almost identical to the draft that leaked back in May, and the dissent concerns itself with what you’d expect: the plight of the women losing their right to an abortion, and an enumeration of the many other evils now flinging themselves out of the pandora’s box. That includes a potential future federal abortion ban, and the endangerment of other constitutional rights, like same-sex marriage and contraception.
The biggest surprises in the 213-page document were probably Justice Clarence Thomas’ unvarnished calls to reconsider some of those newly vulnerable rights, and Chief Justice John Roberts’ joining in the majority.
Those who have been closely watching the abortion space even have a sense of what’s coming next, legal-wise: interjurisdictional disputes between states, while red states try to ban their inhabitants from traveling elsewhere to obtain or perform abortions and blue states try to shield those people within their borders. It’s a realm of thin precedent (not that this Court seems overmuch concerned with precedent to begin with).
The true unknown is how people will react.
For years, overturning Roe has been a big, fat, juicy electoral carrot for Republicans to turn out their voters with, sometimes even when the voters are ambivalent on the specific candidates running. Where does that enthusiasm go after a generational victory like this? Will they slot in opposition to some other constitutional right — same-sex marriage? Contraception? — to replace it? Will it be as effective?
And what of Democrats who support abortion access? Will this become as motivating an issue for them as it has been for Republicans? Will that energy translate into midterm turnout? Will it be enough to buck predictions that Democrats are in for a shellacking, given an inhospitable environment, cranky populace and cold reality that political trifectas don’t last very long?
This Court is taking us into uncharted waters. There are no checks and balances on our robed overlords. Many states that will ban or heavily restrict abortion are hopelessly gerrymandered; with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) still supporting the filibuster, any federal abortion protections are dead on arrival.
There are solutions to our current crisis, and measures like expanding the Court may gain popularity as its legitimacy plummets and it curtails people’s rights. A few more Democratic senators would render Sinema and Manchin irrelevant, and the chamber could pass protections.
Everything comes down to how people respond. In these unprecedented times, it’s the biggest unknown.
More on our coverage of Roe’s overturning below. Let’s dig in.