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Dobbs Ruling: A Threat To Liberty & Justice For All

On Friday, June 24th the Supreme Court came to a revolutionary decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. As a result of the decision, SCOTUS reversed 50 years of constitutional protection for the right to get an abortion as set forth by the 1973 landmark decision reached in the case of Roe v. Wade. By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has signaled a major shift in how the Constitution is read. This change not only threatens the right to an abortion, but additional precedents protecting privacy rights and same-sex marriages may now be in danger as well.

Living Reading v. Original Reading

The Dobbs ruling marks a significant shift in how SCOTUS is reading the Constitution. A change from what is known as a living reading to what is known as the original reading. Through the Dobbs ruling, the court has rejected the theory of the living Constitution, which argues that the meaning of the document’s language changes as the beliefs and values of Americans evolve. This has been the prevailing means of reading the Constitution for the last 50 years. It is this view that has allowed for additional rights to emerge over time. These rights include abortion, privacy, and same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court has now decided to read the Constitution using an originalist view. In the originalist view, the Constitution does not evolve without public approval unless it is officially amended. The justices’ job is to find out the original public meaning of the text, but they leave other issues to elected representatives.

What Is Substantive Due Process?

The principle of substantive due process is the protection of fundamental rights from government interference, as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments bar the government from depriving any individual of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Fifth Amendment applies to federal activities, and the Fourteenth applies to state activities.

Through the Supreme Courts’ overturning of Roe v. Wade, the unenumerated rights that were previously understood by the living reading of the Constitution and guaranteed to citizens of the United States through the principle of substantive due process are now under threat.

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Are Contraception & Same-Sex Marriage Next?

The dissenting opinion in the Dobbs ruling warns that this decision leaves the door open to the future collapse of rights that Americans have become accustomed to. In a strongly worded dissent, Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan warned “Either the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat. It is one or the other.”  According to this dissent, the fear is that the Dobbs decision could be used to challenge other cases involving individual freedoms, including the right to use contraception and the right to marry a same-sex partner.

Only time will tell if this judgment will be restricted to only apply to abortion rights or if this is the first of several limitations placed on individual freedoms. As the dissenting opinion goes on to caution “we cannot understand how anyone can be confident that today’s opinion will be the last of its kind.”

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By: MFL Team

Posted June 29, 2022

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