Juan Williams: The Supreme Court is on the brink of disaster

The most intense political fight in Washington today is at the Supreme Court, in advance of the imminent ruling on abortion rights. 

Inside players at the court are leaking to Politico. They are talking to The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. They are telling The Washington Post that a draft opinion still has the votes.  

All the leaks point to one of two outcomes.  

It is nearly certain the conservative majority on the court will uphold the state law central to the case — Mississippi’s proposed 15-week limit on abortion. 

But there is a second possible outcome. 

The court may completely end constitutional protection for all abortion rights. 

Take your pick. 

Whatever the court decides, this is now a purely political fight.  

The law books have gone out the window.  

The power play underway is damaging to public confidence that America is a nation of laws, not the whims of whatever group currently holds power. 

Did Congress force the court to consider the issue by passing a law banning abortion? No, the votes are not there. 

Instead, the court made a political decision to take up cases designed by anti-abortion groups and their political allies in state government to intentionally undermine Roe v. Wade. 

Oklahoma lawmakers are also pushing to totally end abortion rights. Last week, they passed a state law to ban abortion at “fertilization.” 

Abortion foes have been at it since Roe was decided in 1973. 

But for the last 49 years, the principle of a person’s right to make a private decision about abortion, the heart of the Roe ruling, has been affirmed by a variety of justices sitting on the Supreme Court.  

Every one of those decisions, even those allowing states to set some conditions on abortion, left in place the established legal right of all American women to decide if they want an abortion. 

The current leaks reveal the extent of the political infighting now underway. 

The leaks might be intended to stir a public backlash to keep Roe. 

They might be intended to pressure individual justices to retain a majority vote to end Roe. 

Either way, it reveals that politics are overwhelming legal reasoning and the independence of the court. 

Chief Justice John Roberts once complained about former President Trump calling out an “Obama judge” for a ruling Trump did not like. 

Roberts said the nation does not have “Obama judges or Trump judges,” but an “independent judiciary … we should all be thankful for.” 

But Trump’s view of the court as a political institution is now a sad reality. 

Ending abortion rights is only possible because the high court is ideologically unbalanced as the result of Senate Republicans maneuvering to deny a vote on President Obama’s final nominee, current Attorney General Merrick Garland.  

Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) success in thwarting Garland resulted in three Trump nominees rising to the court. Overall, six of the nine current justices are Republican nominees.  

This is a remarkable show of political power over a supposedly independent branch of the government. 

This power play is working against the powerful fact that most Americans want no change in the current abortion law. A recent Fox News poll found that 63 percent of Americans — including 51 percent of Republicans — want Roe to stay in place.  

Democrats, who favor keeping abortion legal, have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. 

But Republicans won the presidency in three of those eight elections, thanks to the vagaries of the Electoral College. And the Republican presidents elected by the minority still got the right to nominate Supreme Court justices. 

Similarly, Republicans in the Senate represent far less than half of the nation’s population. 

The Republican indifference to majority rule in undoing Roe threatens to tear this already fractured country apart. The only comparable ruling would be the pro-slavery Dred Scott decision, which precipitated the Civil War.  

The most recent Gallup poll on approval of the Supreme Court, taken in September 2021, found that 53 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the court is handling its job.  

A Monmouth University poll taken earlier this month asked the same question and found essentially the same result, with 52 percent disapproving.  

Roberts has said that restoring the public’s faith in the Supreme Court as a fair and impartial institution is a top priority for him.  

However, if his court issues a ruling overturning Roe v. Wade that resembles the one that was leaked, it will make his time as chief justice a failure. He will not have protected the court’s legitimacy as a foundation of American democracy.  

I have written a best-selling book on the court. I know members of the court. I have covered the confirmation hearings of every justice on the court. 

I close with a personal appeal to Roberts.  

Mr. Chief Justice, please save this country from the consequences of the Supreme Court becoming just another extremist political player. 

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel. 

Tags abortion Barack Obama John Roberts judiciary Roe v. Wade Supreme Court

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