Court Battles

Former Bush AG on SCOTUS revisiting other rights: ‘they very well may go there’

The Supreme Court is seen on Friday, June 24, 2022 after the court released a decision to strike Roe v. Wade.
Greg Nash
The Supreme Court is seen on Friday, June 24, 2022.

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (R) said the conservative members of the Supreme Court may look to review other federally protected rights, such as access to contraception and same-sex relations, following the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade 

Gonzales, who led the Justice Department under former President George W. Bush, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Tuesday that Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe, specifically emphasizes that the court’s decision should not be taken to put other rights at risk. 

But Gonzales said the risk to other cases based on the right to privacy is something he would be concerned about. 

“I think they very well may go there,” he said. 

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the court should take steps beyond overturning Roe to reconsider Griswold v. Connecticut, which ensured individuals’ access to contraceptives; Lawrence v. Texas, which prevents states from banning same-sex relations; and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationally. 

Roe and the three cases Thomas mentioned were decided in part on the basis of interpreting an individual’s right to privacy as defined by the Constitution. The three liberal justices on the court — Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — said in their dissent to the Dobbs ruling that other precedents have become vulnerable because of the decision. 

Gonzales said the best way to protect abortion rights is to push for a constitutional amendment at both the federal and state level, or a federal law that would codify the right. 

He said his philosophy is similar to that of Chief Justice John Roberts in terms of change. Roberts voted to uphold the Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks being considered in the Dobbs case but did not go as far as his conservative colleagues in voting to overturn Roe. 

“When you’ve got a precedent and society relies on it for a long period of time, there’s certain expectations that arise,” Gonzales said. “So, you know, it’s a jolt to our system.” 

He said there are sometimes reasons to overturn precedent if it is “simply unworkable” and unaccepted by society. He said the court seems to overturn precedent about once per year, so precedent is “very, very important,” which is the “jarring” part of the ruling.

Tags abortion rights Alberto Gonzales Alberto Gonzales Clarence Thomas Clarence Thomas George W. Bush Griswold v. Connecticut Lawrence v. Texas Obergefell v. Hodges right to privacy Roe v. Wade Samuel Alito Supreme Court
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