The Dobbs Decision Isn’t Just About Abortion. It’s About Power.

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On Friday, a Supreme Court majority voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. Nearly all abortions are already banned in at least nine states, home to 7.2 million women of reproductive age. And it is likely that other bans and restrictions will follow. As the court’s three liberal justices put it in their dissenting opinion, “One result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”

But this decision doesn’t just represent the end of abortion as a constitutional right; what we’re also witnessing, before our eyes, is a legal regime change — one with striking implications for the future of the court and the country. In their majority opinion on the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the justices cast aside precedent, the court’s historical norms and evidence-based concerns about how this ruling will disrupt people’s lives. Even Chief Justice John Roberts, a fellow conservative, argued in a concurring opinion that the decision went too far, writing, “The court’s opinion is thoughtful and thorough, but those virtues cannot compensate for the fact that its dramatic and consequential ruling is unnecessary to decide the case before us.”

The Dobbs ruling, in other words, isn’t just about abortion; it’s a conservative court majority flexing its newly unrestrained power.

Dahlia Lithwick is a reporter covering the Supreme Court for Slate, the host of the podcast “Amicus” and someone I turn to whenever I need to understand the court. We discuss what Roe did and what Dobbs changes; why the rights to abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage have a much firmer constitutional basis than conservatives argue; how the majority opinion implicitly threatens those latter two rights, even while claiming to uphold them; why the most revealing opinion in the case is Roberts’s scathing concurrence; why the majority’s absolute disregard for precedent is so terrifying for defenders of the court; the way Justice Samuel Alito’s constitutional originalism freezes past injustices into present law; what the current composition of the court means for the future of liberal governance in America; and more.

Mentioned:

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

There’s a Way to Outmaneuver the Supreme Court, and Maine Has Found It” by Aaron Tang

Book recommendations:

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train by Howard Zinn

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