Jourgensen: The mother of all debates

This article was published 1 year(s) and 1 month(s) ago.

Like me, you might be wondering why America’s top legal minds are poised to restrict the rights of more than half of the nation’s population.

Suspecting the answer lies in the political domain and not the realm of constitutional law, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito would have us believe, I sought an answer from the best political authority I know — my 88-year-old mother. 

Raised in a conservative Republican home on Colorado’s High Prairie, she was radicalized by the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement. 

Along with my late father, she organized sit-ins as a young mother living in Casper, Wyoming. The local citizenry’s response to those protests prompted my parents to move to the more-liberal Boulder, Colorado, where my mother launched a political career that spanned 50 years. When she wasn’t serving in elected office, including a stint as mayor, she was working as an activist. 

She takes progressive politics so seriously that my siblings and I know better than to interrupt her at the dinner table when she starts quoting the New York Times or Washington Post

I asked her about Alito’s draft opinion on Roe v. Wade and her response came back fast and furious. “Women should have a right to choose,” she declared.

Contemplate for a second the unassailable elegance of that statement. The Declaration of Independence includes the words, “unalienable rights” and it goes on to mention “life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

How and why are these words getting misread by Alito — and presumably four colleagues who are reportedly prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade?

I’m no constitutional-law scholar, but news reports I’ve read in the past 36 hours since the Alito “leak” exploded explain how the Supreme Court voted 7-2 in 1973 to establish the constitutional right to abortion based on the argument, successfully made before the court, that a Texas abortion prohibiton violated Roe’s right to personal privacy.

If the draft opinion is to be believed, Alito doesn’t think Roe’s constitutional interpretation holds water. In fact, he thinks his Supreme Court predecessors were “wrong from the start” in their Roe ruling.

But let’s go back to my mother’s reaction to the opinion. She is saying, Don’t take the option of choice away from women, who are making one of the most difficult decisions, with the question of aborting a fetus.

Alito would have us believe Supreme Court justices “do not pretend to know how our political system or society will respond to (today’s) decision.” Malarkey. They know exactly what the response will be. 

The court with its current composition appears intent on doing the work of right-wing totalitarians whose real goal, as my mother pointed out, is to strip women of their reproductive rights. 

That objective dovetails neatly with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s warning about “injustice anywhere being a threat to justice everywhere.” Roe v. Wade is the law of the land because 1973’s Supreme Court understood that “women believed in the right to control their own bodies.” 

If Alito and his colleagues don’t believe overturning Roe v. Wade will strip women of their unalienable rights, they need to talk to my mother.

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