As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Wednesday over Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that challenges the precedent of landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, liberal news outlets nationwide panicked over the possibility that abortions could be restricted. CNN was no exception, with a panel of guests on Inside Politics fretting over the conservative majority in the Supreme Court.
Although many pro-abortion activists claim that overturning Roe v. Wade would abolish abortion, this is simply not the case. If Roe were to be overturned, each individual state would have the ability to make its own laws on abortion. However, CNN had a problem with this demonstration of good old-fashioned federalism.
“This is a case fundamentally about liberty, about personal liberty, about constitutional liberty of women in America,” CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero dramatized. She then bemoaned the possible overturning of 50-year-old precedent. Of course, Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case that institutionalized “separate but equal,” was overturned nearly 60 years after it was decided – it’s highly unlikely that Cordero would have had an issue with overturning that precedent.
Host John King solemnly reminded viewers that this all came about due to the election of CNN’s favorite villain, Donald Trump, in 2016:
King also lamented the distances that women would have to travel in order to have an abortion if individual states were allowed to ban it, putting a map up on the screen to emphasize the hardship that would be thrust upon women seeking to end the life of their unborn child.
CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson called the potential overturning of Roe a “slippery slope,” claiming that it would lead to “a state-by-state decision on whether or not a state can control essentially family planning and a woman’s womb.” Henderson seems to have forgotten the countless other resources for family planning – and the fact that an unborn baby is a distinct person within the mother, not just part of a womb. States have always made murder illegal.
Cordero returned to the idea that somehow a woman’s liberty was on the line, noting that more than 25 states already have post-Roe “trigger” laws that would restrict or ban abortion if the precedent was overturned: “The Supreme Court really is making the decision whether a woman’s liberty and her ability to make this choice would be affected in this particular case.”
With a 6-3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court, pundits at CNN are desperately afraid that the Court will recognize the absurdity of a “constitutional right to abortion” and will take steps to protect unborn life. The Supreme Court plans to announce their decision in June or July of 2022, so for now, all there is to do is wait.
JOHN KING: With me in studio, here to share their reporting and their insights, we have CNN’s Dana Bash, CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson, Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post, and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero. Carrie, I want to start with you, in the sense that, if you listen to the arguments, again, Casey was a compromise, if you will. A then-conservative Court saying we will keep Roe, but we will say that states can have restrictions as long as they do not have an undue burden, or, you know, so essentially reasonable restrictions. The arguments today were mostly about, just, never mind. Just have the Supreme Court say this is now to the states.
CARRIE CORDERO: Well, I think there’s two fundamental things going on that we heard in the Court’s oral arguments today. One is, that this is a case fundamentally about liberty, about personal liberty, about constitutional liberty of women in America. And on the merits of the case, that’s what it’s about. But the second piece going on that we heard articulated by the justices in their questioning is this issue of the Court’s precedent, it’s called stare decisis. And so that pertains to the fact of is the Court going to overturn these 50 years of history from back, going back to Roe in addition to the past almost 30 years when that case was reaffirmed in the Casey case.
KING: And what is fascinating about it is that, you know, elections have consequences and life events have consequences. This would have been a very different case, and this would have been a very different hearing if not for the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Donald Trump’s third appointee of the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett. And that was very clear, as the Mississippi Solicitor General was making his case. The Mississippi initially filed to make its 15-week law just to say, we want the Court to embrace this as a reasonable restriction. Mississippi changed its strategy. Listen.
SCOTT STEWART: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey haunt our country. They have no basis in the Constitution. They have no home in our history or traditions. They’ve damaged the democratic process. They’ve poisoned the law. They’ve choked off compromise. Nowhere else does this court recognize a right to end a human life.
KING: That is a complete change in the state strategy because Amy Coney Barrett is on that bench, not Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which leaves John Roberts nowhere to look for a compromise to say, maybe, come up with some kind of compromise decision. They want them tossed.
DANA BASH: Absolutely. And nobody should look at this as anything other than a very, very strategic legal strategy and political strategy that has been in the works for decades. This is the long game exemplified. Because conservatives have been pushing, pushing, pushing to pack the courts on the lower levels and, of course, ultimately the Supreme Court. And if you want to know politically why so many conservatives to this day stick by Donald Trump, it’s because of what we heard in the court today, the questioning by his three nominees were exactly what they were going for. We don’t know how they’re going to decide. But certainly they left some very big bread crumbs as to where they’re headed.
KING: And again, to the point. Number one, we could show you a map. If the court just throws out Roe v. Wade and it becomes a state by state decision, some women will have to drive hundreds of miles or transport themselves. Sometimes you, I say drive, move hundreds of miles to get access to an abortion. That is a decision we will know months from now down the road. The chief justice in the past who has been a defender of precedent, stare decisis, as you say, has tried, in the previous court, worked with liberals to try to say, okay, you know, I’m a conservative but we’re gonna try to split the difference here. He made the point today in questioning Mississippi that you’ve changed your strategy here which makes our choice more difficult.
JOHN ROBERTS: Your first question, and the only one on which we granted review, was whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional. And then I think it’s fair to say that when you got to the briefs on the merits, you kinda shifted gears, and talked a lot more about whether or not Roe and Casey should be overruled.
SCOTT STEWART: The harder questions are, you know, should the court overrule and take that, that momentous step and that’s why we devote a lot of space to that very important issue.
KING: This is a moment that, pro-life movement, the anti-abortion movement, has waited for for 50 years. And they believe they’re at the precipice of it.
SEUNG MIN KIM: Right, and this is going back to your earlier point about how presidential elections particularly have consequences in the long run for the Supreme Court. That was especially true with President Trump’s second nominee to the Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who of course replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy. Another point from his remarks that I found really interesting was how he made it a point to point out that there are several landmark cases by the Supreme Court that overturned previous precedent, such as Brown v. the Board of Education. That was not his message when he was talking with senators, trying to get their vote for confirmation, particularly Susan Collins, one of the few pro-abortion rights Republicans in the Senate, and she said, she had told us over and over, that Kavanaugh assured her that he believed Roe v. Wade was settled law, and that was certainly not his message today.
KING: Right, and to that point, I just got to read a little bit from Justice Kavanaugh. “If we think the prior precedents are seriously wrong, then why doesn’t the history of the Court’s practice strike those cases, tell us the right answers to actually go to the return of neutrality?” Not what he told Congress.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yeah, I mean, listen. I don’t think anybody really believed Brett Kavanaugh when he said that to Susan Collins. Susan Collins apparently did. But it, going to Dana’s point, this has been the fight on the right for decades. It’s what energized white evangelicals to back Donald Trump in the numbers that they did in 2016. I think the consequences of this, when you think about a state-by-state decision on whether or not a state can control essentially family planning and a woman’s womb, I mean, that’s a, sort of a slippery slope that you enter if this becomes a reality, if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That is something to behold and think about in these different states where this might be the reality.
KING: Right. We would – if we get to that point, when the court decides we will have both a legal and a political conversation about what impact it would have in the midterm election year and elections off whenever. Let’s talk about that from a legal perspective. If as Justice Kavanaugh suggests here, let’s just take the Supreme Court out of this. So they overturn Roe they overturn Planned Parenthood v. Casey, obviously, and they say this is a decision now left to the states. What happens to the legal framework, every state has to make a decision. And then those decisions then get challenged up through the courts as well, right?
CORDERO: Well, from a legal perspective, yes, then it would go back to the states. But there are at all – there are already over 25 states that have laws on the books that would be triggered by such a decision. So if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe and Casey, these state laws would immediately go into effect. So as a practical matter, the Supreme Court really is making the decision whether a woman’s liberty and her ability to make this choice would be affected in this particular case. In addition to and I just want to note the Council for Jackson Women’s Health, she took on this issue of whether or not the court should abandon the prior precedent. And the argument that she makes is that Mississippi is not making any new arguments. In other words, for the Supreme Court to throw out its 50 years of history, there has to be a very strong reason for it to determine that its prior decisions were wrong. And what she argues is that Mississippi isn’t making any arguments for why those are wrong.
KING: So no new legal argument so we will see what will be ultimately interpreted as a political decision. We’ll stay on top of that; can you see the dramatic pictures outside the Supreme Court on this big day?