They Really Did It

The Supreme Court’s conservatives finally felt safe to do what they wanted to do.

Abortion-rights and anti-abortion-rights activists in front of the U.S. Supreme Court
Abortion-rights and anti-abortion-rights activists in front of the U.S. Supreme Court

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I remember the days when my fellow conservatives hated activist judges and fulminated against attempts to gain in the courts what could not be won at the ballot box; today, a new kind of “conservative” is cheering a radical unraveling of women’s rights.

But first, here’s more from The Atlantic.

Grim Determination

We all saw it coming—even me. I was long convinced that no Supreme Court would be stupid or vicious enough to end the right to legal abortion, but after Amy Coney Barrett was fastballed onto the Court, I knew I had been wrong. And in the weeks after Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked, anyone could see—well, anyone except the hapless Susan Collins—not only that the Court’s conservatives were going to overturn Roe v. Wade, but that they didn’t care what kind of jumbled reasoning it would take to get there.

This is the revenge of the Court’s right wing, who in their confirmation hearings had to dodge and dissemble with furrowed brows and deep concern (have I mentioned Susan Collins?) about things like stare decisis and their personal religious beliefs. They hated these questions because they knew that as soon as they got the chance, they would ignore stare decisis and impose their personal religious beliefs. The Court’s five hard-line conservatives, with a hand-wringing John Roberts trotting behind them, did what their critics warned they would do: They trashed 50 years of settled law.

Even that wasn’t enough for Clarence Thomas, a man who has seemed grimly determined to get even with America since his brutal confirmation hearings more than 30 years ago. Thomas now wants the Court to revisit the decisions that rely on its substantive due-process precedents, including rulings on issues such as contraception and gay marriage.

Republicans used to hate activist judges; I was once a Republican and I remember the high-minded speeches from a party that despised using courts to circumvent the legislature. Today, those same Republicans have no hope of persuading a majority of their fellow Americans to accept their views, and so they are more than happy to abuse the rules of the Senate and prop up the now-obvious lies of Supreme Court nominees to get what they want.

I have already written about my belief that abortion must stay legal (and how I learned, late in life, that an illegal abortion nearly killed my mother). Other writers are weighing in today in The Atlantic, and you can find all recent articles on the abortion divide here, including a powerful warning from Mary Ziegler that if the Court can overturn Roe, it can overturn anything, and Xochitl Gonzalez noting that the same Republicans who are always quick to wrap themselves in the flag and bloviate about the American dream have no compunction about taking hopes of a better life from women.

Abortion now goes to the states. The federal and state elections that Democrats too often ignored because of their obsession with the White House will now decide the future health of millions of women. Will the voters finally act?


America’s abortion divide: A guide to all our coverage

Today’s News

  1. Congress passed the most significant legislation on gun control in nearly 30 years. The bill now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature.
  2. The United Nations Human Rights Office concluded that Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist, was killed by Israeli forces—not from indiscriminate firing by Palestinians.
  3. Ukraine is withdrawing from the key eastern city of Severodonetsk, moving Russia closer to its goal of fully controlling the Donbas region.


Evening Read

Ben Whishaw as Adam Kay in AMC's "This Is Going to Hurt"
Anika Molnar / Sister Pictures / BBC / AMC

What This Is Going to Hurt Leaves Out

By Sophie Gilbert

Up until rather recently, the history of gynecological health was written and recorded by men who seemed to have an inordinate degree of suspicion regarding vaginas. Aristotle, considered by some to be the founder of biology, believed that being born female was an innate sign of deficiency and a “departure” from nature.

Read the full article.

Culture Break

Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, lounging on a red couch in Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis"
Warner Bros.

Read. Mrs. Dalloway reminds us that aging has its benefits.

Looking for something new? Try a recommendation from our summer reading guide.

Watch. Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, in theaters today, is utterly disorienting—and that’s the point.

Halftime, a new Netflix documentary about J. Lo, posits that rebirth is essential for the modern celebrity, but it takes a hidden toll.

Catch up on the first season of Reservation Dogs, which returns to Hulu on August 3. It’s the rare show where atypical families are portrayed as “all-American” ones.

Listen. On our podcast The Experiment, Jessica Bruder talked about her May cover story on the activists prepared to take abortion into their own hands.

If you missed it, the latest episode of our new podcast, How to Start Over, is about when it’s time to end a marriage.

Play our daily crossword.

I got the news about Dobbs as I was heading to Harvard to teach a class on the theory of “just war” and how it developed over the past thousand years. (It seemed almost a less depressing problem than the social conflict the Supreme Court has now unleashed on the United States.) But an unjust war is raging in Ukraine, and I have to recommend this heartbreaking documentary by a Russian filmmaker on how Russia’s savagery has divided friends and families in Russia and Ukraine.

— Tom

Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.