Monday, October 31, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen!

It is time to do the Time Warp Again!

In his latest move to ensure that legal and civil status for the citizens of the United States takes a leap backwards only marginally less severe than the Taliban regime inflicted upon Afghanistan, George W. Bush has nominated Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court.

The fact that the same conservative factions that were so opposed to Harriet Miers are positively ecstatic about Mr. Alito is worrisome all by itself. The viciousness of the attacks against Miers smacks of ideological puritanism - the fact that Aulito is being greated with near jubilation makes me suspicious.

A brief perusal of the CNN article doesn't do much to allay my worries:

In 1991, in one of his more well-known decisions, Alito was the only dissenting voice in a 3rd Circuit ruling striking down a Pennsylvania law that required women to notify their husbands if they planned to get an abortion.

Now, I'm not saying that in any reasonable marriage, the natural communication between husband and wife wouldn't include this discussion - however, I know of plenty of completely screwed up situations where even raising the discussion could result in the woman receiving a beating or worse. Even more disturbing is the underlying attitude that this suggests, especially towards a topic as sensitive as abortion.

"Federal judges have the duty to interpret the Constitution and the laws faithfully and fairly, to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans, and to do these things with care and with restraint, always keeping in mind the limited role that the courts play in our constitutional system," he said.

Ah yes, the old canard about "judicial activism" - which is really a code phrase for any ruling that you don't like. I'm not so worried about his statement so much as how beholden he is to the "hard-line" conservative ideology. In other words, is he going to rule "conservatively" not because it's the appropriate thing to do in a given case, but because his ideological masters tell him to?

The Conservative Party in Canada has carped about so-called judicial activism for years - usually every time the Supreme Court makes a ruling that they find distressing. I see court rulings all the time that I disagree with, or that I had hoped for a different outcome on. Not once have I called it "judicial activism", because usually the situation is grounded in a rational interpretation of law. Given that Republicans have held sway in the US Supreme Court for a long time (all but two of the judges in recent years were appointed - and affiliated with - Republicans), I can only imagine what kind of judiciary the hard-liners are seeking.

I might be paranoid, but a guy like Alito, along with Roberts, stand in a position to scale back civil rights across the board. It goes much further than Roe v. Wade, but we also have to remember that there are groups in the United States who demand that one particular religion (theirs) be given a unique status above all others; that there are very powerful groups still agitating to restore segregation and numerous other "civil rights" movements that an ideologically focused Supreme Court may well see fit to quash.


Lori said...

Yesterday on NPR I heard a woman who had been abandoned by her abusive, philandering husband. She was left with three children and very soon after becoming the sole provider for them and for herself, she discovered that she was pregnant by the very individual who had put her in such a difficult situation. She described on the radio how humiliating and even frightening it was to have to go crawling to her husband and beg that he allow her to get an abortion. (Fast forward: he didn't hit her but he didn't allow her to abort, either; apparently this was not due to a lofty moral consciousness but rather a desire to screw his wife up even further.)

It is this type of scenario that Alito wanted to maintain in the 1991 case in Pennsylvania.

Just as you said, in a reasonable marriage, there would be communication about this issue. However, this law is meant to protect women who find themselves in unreasonable marriages.

Something else that worries me -- imagine that Alito withdraws, or that he's not confirmed (let's hope!). What happens next? Is it possible that someone who is even worse be approved just to get someone in that seat after Miers and Alito didn't work out?

Grog said...

As my blog's title suggests, the crystal ball is cracked - I'd hate to speculate on whom might be lurking in the wings should Alito not be appointed.

My worry is that he appears to support legislated morality - at least where its convenient to his unique perspective. BTW - I am not saying that law is amoral, but rather has to tread a cautious line between "commonly held" morals and when that law can put someone into harm's way. (and yes, I would consider the situation you cite as harmful - to both the child and the mother. The father was clearly being an irredeemable pimple on the arse of the world)

Having said that, can you imagine Karl Rove being appointed to the S/C? Or C. Rice? (shudder)