As soon as he was elected president, Donald Trump and his supporters began to target Roe v. Wade.
“The judges will be pro-life,” Trump declared on “60 Minutes” when asked about potential nominees.
In short order, Trump and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, White House Counsel Don McGahn and outside adviser Leonard Leo set out to change the face of the courts, and Trump ultimately appointed three Supreme Court justices — all of whom voted last week to overturn Roe.
The fact that Roe v. Wade had been on the books since 1973 wasn’t much of a deterrent to Trump or other conservatives.
After all, Justice Clarence Thomas, the conservatives’ legal titan on the high court, had made clear that he thought the legal doctrine of “stare decisis” — which literally means “stand by that which has been decided” — was overrated. For Thomas, the fact that a decision had been decided for a substantial period of time should not change a judge’s calculus if he thought the case had been wrongly decided in the first place.
Mike Davis, president of the Article III Project, believes the court’s opinion is a momentous victory. “President Trump won an upset victory over Hillary Clinton, in large part because he promised to appoint pro-life judges. He transformed the 5-4 Roberts court to the 5-4 Clarence Thomas Court, and we’re seeing monumental results now,” he said.
In the abortion opinion, Justice Samuel Alito provided two pages of footnotes highlighting other cases that have been overturned, in an effort to prove that stare decisis isn’t what he called an “inexorable command.” And he explained his criteria for overturning precedent.
Alito also wrote that “[n]othing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”
But there’s no guarantee that future judges and justices will follow his guidelines, and legal experts say that going forward, justices will hesitate much less when voting to overturn prior cases.
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