Sunday Reading: Abortion Rights and the Courts

This week, the unprecedented leak of a draft Supreme Court decision made plain the consequences of Presidential elections and the precarity of reproductive rights in America. The authenticity of the leak—an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey—was confirmed on Tuesday by Chief Justice John Roberts. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote, “and the decision has had damaging consequences.” Alito’s opinion, which appears to have the support of a majority, is likely to roll back decades of progress on civil liberties for women and could have ramifications well beyond the right to an abortion.

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Today, in the wake of this deeply consequential news, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces about abortion rights and the courts. In “The Mississippi Abortion Case and the Fragile Legitimacy of the Supreme Court,” Jeannie Suk Gersen explores how the case at the center of the Alito draft is a transparent challenge to the Court’s over-all authority. In “Amy Coney Barrett’s Long Game,” Margaret Talbot profiles a conservative Justice firmly entrenched in the Christian legal movement; in “Why It’s Become So Hard to Get an Abortion,” Talbot examines the legal maneuvers that have effectively restricted access even without an outright ban. In “Another Risk in Overturning Roe,” Jia Tolentino warns of where anti-abortion crusaders might turn their attention following Roe’s repeal. Finally, in “To Have and to Hold,” Jill Lepore considers the lasting influence of another key abortion ruling, Griswold v. Connecticut, and the complexities inherent in our conception of privacy. “Good political arguments are expansive: they broaden and deepen the understanding of citizens and of legislators,” she writes. “Bad political arguments are as frothy as soapsuds: they get bigger and bigger, until they pop.”

David Remnick

The Supreme Court Building.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is an open challenge to the Court’s authority, and perhaps broadly reflects a spirit of legal self-help that is running through the land.

Amy Coney Barrett in a black robe.

The newest Supreme Court Justice isn’t just another conservative—she’s the product of a Christian legal movement that is intent on remaking America.

Illustration of an ultrasound reading depicting a pair of hands and a gavel.

When you can’t ban something outright, it’s possible to make the process of obtaining it so onerous as to be a kind of punishment.

A person holding a sign in front of the United States Supreme Court that reads "Keep Abortion Legal."

The decision rejects the idea of fetal personhood—which anti-abortion groups have been pushing on state legislatures.

Collage including protest signs, flags, and the U.S. Supreme Court building

Reproduction, marriage, and the Constitution.

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