Photo: Activists at the protest by Leo’s house on Saturday | Tina Stein
Activists in Maine protested Saturday outside the Northeast Harbor home of Leonard Leo, the co-chairman of the Federalist Society who has played a leading role in building the conservative Supreme Court majority that recently overturned federal abortion rights.
Leo famously developed a list of right-wing jurists that included all three of President Donald Trump’s eventual nominees to the bench. Each of those justices — Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett — joined in a June court ruling described by advocates as “dangerous and chilling” that overturned Roe v. Wade.
The New Yorker has called Leo “in effect, Trump’s subcontractor” on high court nominations. And a writer with the National Reviewstated in 2016 that, “No one has been more dedicated to the enterprise of building a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade than the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo.”
Leo bought a nearly 8,000 square foot mansion in Northeast Harbor — on Mount Desert Island — during the fall of 2018. In 2019, activists protested outside the house when Sen. Susan Collins attended a private campaign fundraiser there.
Collins, a Maine Republican, famously cast a pivotal vote in favor of confirming Kavanaugh, one of the conservatives Leo helped elevate to the court, and also voted for Gorsuch. Activists warned that both were hostile to abortion rights, but Collins — who says she is pro-choice — still voted for them, arguing they would respect precedent set by Roe. Wade. Both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, however, ultimately voted to overturn abortion rights.
Saturday’s protest was the continuation of a number of rallies outside Leo’s mansion, including one in June at which participants celebrated the elevation to the Supreme Court of President Biden nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and gathered to let Leo know “we are for justice, equity and love, not hate.”
Dixie Hathaway, one of the people at the demonstration over the weekend, said the goal of the rally was to “raise awareness that this person is the one who’s primarily responsible for our Supreme Court and for all the horrible” rulings the court has made. She noted that such awareness is important given that many people don’t know who Leo is.
“We would like to make him feel uncomfortable,” Hathaway said, adding that some participants have contacted local nonprofits that receive money from Leo to let them know about his background and to make the argument that his donations are “intended to buy acceptance in the community.”
Hathaway said the court’s June abortion decision is just one harmful ruling the majority Leo helped seat has recently made. During the last term, right-wingers on the bench also severely limited the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to combat climate change and struck down a New York gun control law.
Hathaway and another demonstrator, Tina Stein, both told Beacon that Leo seemed upset by the protest on Saturday and that the police were called about the demonstration, and Hathaway shared a photo with Beacon of an officer on the scene. However, she said activists stood their ground.
Overall, participants have had a number of productive conversations with people passing by during the demonstrations, Hathaway added. She said many of those people know about Leo and are sympathetic to the protests.
An attempt to reach Leo for comment about the rally was unsuccessful.
Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The justices curtailed the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over emissions from coal-fired power plants in a case brought by 19 Republican-leaning states and fossil fuel interests led by West Virginia.
Following a decade-long battle, the court ruled that Congress had not granted the EPA broad authority to regulate the energy sector under the landmark 1970 Clean Air Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden described the ruling as “another devastating decision that aims to take our country backwards.
“While this decision risks damaging our nation’s ability to keep our air clean and combat climate change, I will not relent in using my lawful authorities to protect public health and tackle the climate crisis,” he said.
But Li Shuo, Senior Climate & Energy Policy Officer for Greenpeace East Asia, suggested that if the U.S. failed to keep its promises, Beijing would be unlikely to curb its own coal consumption agreed under the two countries’ climate agreements.
The U.S. tops the list of countries that have emitted the biggest amount of carbon dioxide in total since the industrial revolution.
China’s tally of emissions since then only comes to about half that of the U.S.
In 2019, a report released by Durham and Lancaster University found the U.S. military to be “one of the largest climate polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more CO2e (carbon-dioxide equivalent) than most countries.”
Morning Star is the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.
Emissions rise from the smokestacks at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant as the sun sets, Sept. 18, 2021, near Emmett, Kan. The right-wing-dominated Supreme Court says the EPA has no power to regulate emissions by power plants, setting the stage for a speed-up of climate change. | Charlie Riedel / AP
Continuing a right-wing rampage that has already seen abortion rights gutted, the open carrying of guns given free rein, eviction moratoriums killed off, and coronavirus controls eviscerated, the Supreme Court on Thursday gave big fossil fuel corporations the freedom to fill our air with more planet-warming carbon dioxide.
In a 6-3 ruling, the conservative majority announced it was stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate emissions from power plants. The move destroys the core of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and puts the Biden administration’s plans for fighting climate change in jeopardy.
And with its broad denunciation of the power of government agencies to enact rules and standards without specific and down-to-the-last-detail instructions from Congress, the court has also potentially put every regulation on the chopping block—not just when it comes to emissions, but also things like safety conditions in the workplace, fair wages, exposure to toxins, environmental protection, what bathroom transgender students can use, which people can cast a ballot and how, and more.
The decision is a preview of what the far-right and its corporate backers envision for the country.
Victory for fossil fuels, loss for life on Earth
The ruling is a major win for polluting energy corporations. EPA data shows that the power sector is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, but now it will be largely beyond the reach of environmental regulation.
Corporate energy giants will be able to fatten their profits by saving on costly emissions control measures in their plants and offload the cost of environmental contamination onto the rest of us—via dirtier air, increased respiratory health problems, and a speed up in climate change and all the problems it brings.
The decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, sides with big energy producers and Republican attorneys general at the state level who have been trying for years to tie the hands of the EPA.
The court declared that the EPA is severely limited in its ability to regulate the fossil fuel sector as a whole and that it can only deal with major pollution issues that crop up at specific individual plants. It also rules out pursuing other climate change-combatting measures through the EPA, such as a carbon cap-and-trade market.
Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the dissent of the three Democratic-appointed justices, warned, “Today, the court strips the Environmental Protection Agency of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.’”
She wrote that right-wing justices had appointed themselves, “instead of Congress or the expert agency [EPA],” to be the “decision maker on climate policy.” Kagan said she “cannot think of many things more frightening.”
Climate change activists and environmentalists expressed outrage—but no surprise—at what the right-wing majority did.
The executive director of Food and Water Watch, Wenonah Hauter, characterized the ruling as “part of a broad-based assault on the ability of regulators to protect our air, water, and climate.” She said the decision has been “long-sought by corporate polluters, industry-backed think tanks, and politicians who serve monied fossil fuel interests.”
“A Supreme Court that sides with the fossil fuel industry over the health and safety of its people is anti-life and beyond broken,” John Paul Mejia, a spokesperson for the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said immediately after the decision was announced. “We cannot and will not let our Democratic leaders stand by while an illegitimate court and the GOP go on the offense.”
The Biden administration’s promise to put the nation on a path toward 100% clean electricity by the middle of the next decade may be sunk because of the ruling, as the president’s plan hinged on using tougher regulation to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels like coal.
It was a continuation of moves made by the Obama administration under its “Clean Power Plan,” which never went into effect thanks to endless lawsuits by power companies and Republican-run states, an earlier Supreme Court block, and a repeal by the Trump administration. The current court decision stems from one of those previous lawsuits.
Environmental groups were already skeptical of the scheme even before the Supreme Court’s ruling, however, because the government, even under Biden, has also approved many new oil and gas leases on public lands recently—moves seemingly at odds with the goal of reducing fossil fuel reliance.
Regardless, the entire plan now faces a rethink. Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that “capping carbon dioxide emission at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity” might sound sensible, but that the law does not allow it.
The impact of the court’s decision could go far beyond just emissions controls and sets a precedent for destroying the power of government to regulate almost anything.
Part of a bigger corporate offensive
Among legal and constitutional scholars, the EPA case has been called the “administrative state” case.
The term “administrative state” is a somewhat obscure one outside the circles of political science and public administration scholars, but it’s one Republicans use regularly in their meetings with disdain.
Dwight Waldo, a professor and former government price control official, first coined the term “administrative state” in 1948. He wrote that public servants should be informed, active agents of change dedicated to improving people’s lives and strengthening democratic participation.
He asserted that the orthodox notion of bureaucrats who just mindlessly follow orders from the top was incompatible with democracy. Bureaucrats had a responsibility to serve the public, not just their political masters.
The most important principle of the administrative state idea was that government cannot be run like a business. Democracy, the Constitution, and public interest required adherence to higher criteria than simply watching out for the bottom line or following orders.
Republicans have long detested the notion of such a government and have systematically set out to destroy it. The Trump administration, in particular, took steps to undermine the ability of agencies (like the EPA) to pursue the public interest, and instead wanted them to follow edicts issued by the president or his appointees—essentially, a more dictatorial arrangement.
Enumerating all the cabinet appointments that the incoming President Trump had made at that time, Bannon stated that the people chosen were all “selected for a reason…deconstruction of the administrative state.”
Bannon continued: “Every business leader we’ve had in is saying it’s not just taxes, but it is also the regulation… the way the progressive left runs, if they can’t get it passed, they’re just gonna put in some sort of regulation in…in an agency.” He vowed, “They’re all going to be deconstructed.”
What followed was a shock-and-awe campaign of rapid-fire executive orders, policy guidance memoranda, and a directive to drop two regulations for every new one implemented. Demanding adherence to presidential authority and extreme loyalty on the part of cabinet secretaries and other officials, the Trump White House made it clear that it viewed the entire American government as an instrument to be wielded by the man at the top.
Bureaucrats that don’t obey? They were shown the door. Courts that won’t validate decisions? Pack the judiciary with the most pro-business judges you can find so that you win next time. Total authority and unrestricted executive power was the goal.
Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation provided the intellectual ammunition, publishing claims that the “growth of the administrative state can be traced, for the most part, to the New Deal (and subsequent outgrowths of the New Deal like the Great Society).” Any pro-people policy that has come about since the 1930s was lumped into the trash pile.
And because presidential administrations come and go (though Jan. 6, 2021, showed that the Republicans wanted to do away with even that reality), the ultimate weapon in this war was to be the Supreme Court.
Speaking of Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch at the 2017 CPAC meeting, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the Republicans would use the courts to cement their policies in place for a long time to come: “We’re not talking about a change over a four-year period. We’re talking about a change of potentially 40 years of law.”
Republican strategy comes to fruition
Thursday’s decision to gut the power of the EPA is proof that the GOP-corporate offensive against all government regulations is well underway. This ruling is a goalpost along the route that the extreme right ideologues and servants of big capitalists in the Republican Party want to take the country down.
Today, it is the struggle to reverse climate change which is under attack, but so many other things will follow.
The situation calls for massive mobilization at the polls in November and immediate pressure on elected officials to use the power of new legislation to codify regulatory power and make it resistant to elimination by the courts.
When it comes to the climate, a coalition of over 1,200 environmental groups, People vs. Fossil Fuels, is calling on Biden to use the authority he still has to “declare a climate emergency and stop new fossil fuel leases, exports, pipelines, and other infrastructure today.”
It pointed to the powers of the presidency under the National Emergencies Act and the Defense Production Act, saying Biden could “also halt crude oil exports, stop offshore oil and gas drilling, restrict international fossil fuel investment, and rapidly manufacture and distribute clean and renewable energy systems.”
Hauter, of Food and Water Watch, said that “while this ruling intends to hamstring the federal government’s ability to regulate dangerous emissions, it does not signal the end of climate action.”
State-level regulatory action now moves to the frontline, especially where Democratic governors and legislative majorities prevail. There, in alliance with growing climate justice movements, progress is being made to achieve carbon neutrality. Such efforts now have to expand further.
Hauter vowed that the climate movement “must and will continue to pressure agencies and elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels to enact policies that ensure a swift reduction in climate pollution and an end to the fossil fuel era.” She said not even the Supreme Court can “stand in the way of the fight for a livable planet.”
It won’t stop the right-wing majority on the court from trying, though. Still expected in the coming days is a decision on a major immigrant rights case, and the Supreme Court has also announced it will hear a case that could give Republican state legislatures unchecked power to suppress votes via gerrymandered districts—setting the stage for widespread election fraud in 2024.
It all makes getting out the vote for this fall’s midterms even more essential.
C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. C.J. Atkins es el editor gerente de People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.
Members of the Communist Party USA and Young Communist League protest in New York City on Friday, June 24, 2022, immediately following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. | Courtesy of CPUSA
The following statement was released by the Communist Party USA on June 24, 2022.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a horrific setback for women their partners, their families, and society overall. As expected, the Court overturned Roe v. Wade, making abortion rights susceptible to the whims of extreme-right state legislators.
A woman may not get an abortion in Texas, but a resident of New York can. Just as where you live determines whether you can vote with ease, breathe fresh air, access Medicaid, or have your children attend a well-funded school, the same is now true regarding abortion rights.
Human rights in this country have never been universal, and the Dobbs decision highlights this fact even further.
The Supreme Court decision surely ranks high among the worst, anti-human decisions in its history, such as the Dred Scott decision of 1857 or Plessy v. Ferguson of 1896. The first decision, made by a Supreme Court dominated by slaveholders, eliminated all restrictions on slavery in the Republic. Adding insult to injury, the Court stated that the Constitution’s authors never intended any Black person to have citizenship rights. Plessy held that racial segregation was constitutional, enshrined in the “separate but equal” doctrine. We all know how the “equal” part went.
Like the 19th-century justices, today’s right-wing Supreme Court has determined that certain people, in this case women and trans men, are even less equal than they were before the Court ruled on June 24.
What will be the impact of the ruling? The Southern Poverty Law Center writes that it will:
“have serious, long-term consequences for women and others. This terrible ruling also endangers other fundamental rights, putting many other communities at risk. The constitutional rights in jeopardy include the right to contraception and equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. . . . The decision is particularly harmful for those people living in poverty because they lack the resources to travel to a state where abortion is legal or pay for necessary medical procedures.”
We must fight back to prevent this from becoming reality.
Today, we mourn this horrific setback. Tomorrow and beyond, we organize. Everywhere—in our communities, unions, schools, places of worship, and workplaces. We must help build a backlash against the right, one in the same spirit as the women who rebelled after Trump’s election and helped take the House of Representatives away from the GOP in 2018; the millions who marched for Black Lives after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others; and the teachers, auto workers, and nurses who went on strike these past four years.
As big as these movements were, the current situation demands a much larger movement, one that’s more inclusive, broader, more militant. Civil disobedience is in order. By inclusive we mean the involvement of a wide range of society, genders, classes, and ethnic backgrounds.
We also mean inclusiveness in terms of tactics. Some may only be willing to make phone calls to their elected officials. Some may want to work in the electoral arena to vote out anti-abortion politicians. Others may demonstrate and engage in civil disobedience and risk arrest. All tactics are on the table. We must engage with people who have never carried a picket sign or called their members of Congress.
This is the kind of unity needed to turn the Court’s decision into a temporary setback. The Communist Party USA is committed to helping build unity to restore women’s right to an abortion.
People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.
A protester holds up a sign during a rally against gun violence outside the US Capitol on June 6, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
The Supreme Court isn’t pro-life — yesterday, it struck down a New York State law limiting who can carry concealed handguns in public, a ruling that could invalidate most gun control laws throughout the country. The court doesn’t care about mass death
Interview by David Sirota
The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York state law limiting who can carry concealed handguns in public, a ruling that could invalidate most gun control laws throughout the country.
Critics say the court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen will likely increase gun violence, and comes one month after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, in which a white supremacist drove two hundred miles to specifically kill black people in a grocery store.
“To justify its regulation, the government may not simply posit that the regulation promotes an important interest,” Thomas wrote. “Rather, the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. Only if a firearm regulation is consistent with this nation’s historical tradition may a court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s ‘unqualified command.’”
According to UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, one of the country’s top experts on gun laws, the ruling could affect a new bipartisan gun safety bill that the Senate passed on Thursday. That bill would encourage states to implement so-called “red flag” laws, which allow firearms to be temporarily confiscated from those who are deemed to be a risk to themselves or others. It would also close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” a gap in federal law that allows some domestic abusers to keep their weapons.
“The Court’s Second Amendment ruling calls into question key parts of the Senate gun bill,” Winkler tweeted after the decision came down. “Thomas says only gun regulations consistent with historical regulation of guns are permissible. Red flag laws, however, are a modern invention. So too bans on domestic abusers.”
Before we get to the current Supreme Court case, just lay out for us where we are at this moment when it comes to how the current Supreme Court looks at gun laws in America.
Well, it’s significant that the Second Amendment had never been authoritatively interpreted by the Supreme Court to protect an individual’s right to have a firearm until 2008. In fact, for most of that time, when the court did rule on Second Amendment cases, the Court said it was only about protecting a well-regulated militia from federal interference.
But in 2008, in a case called DC v. Heller, the Supreme Court said that the Second Amendment does protect an individual right to bear arms, and struck down a law banning handguns in Washington, DC. But the court didn’t provide much other guidance as to the scope of the right to bear arms, such as whether it allowed people to have military-style assault rifles or whether states could restrict concealed carry.
In the fourteen years since Heller, there’s been just a tidal wave of litigation in the federal courts challenging any number of federal gun laws and the court seemed to stay out of it, until Donald Trump had his three appointees to the Supreme Court. And that changed everything.
The court now has a big case out of New York [New York State Rifle] on concealed carry. And we’re expecting a ruling any day now. In that case, most people predict that the court is going to broadly interpret the Second Amendment to say you have a right to carry guns in public, and I think it may make it harder to defend almost any kind of gun law.
What’s the explanation for how much the court itself has shifted? Is it just individual appointees, or was there a movement specifically to put judges on the court that had a different view of guns?
The truth is, the Second Amendment is like every other constitutional provision we have, which means it is a reflection of an evolving and living society and the impact of social movements. And there’s been a real movement to change how the Second Amendment is interpreted in the courts and elsewhere. Donald Trump got elected in part by promising to elect judges that were going to broadly read the Second Amendment. That worked for him, he got elected, and then he appointed those justices. And now they’re going to do that work.
So constitutional law does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in a political environment. And we the people in America have decided we want gun rights. The Supreme Court’s reflecting that, I think.
Can you talk about how gun politics have shifted, and why and how it changed into a partisan issue?
Well, I think gun politics in America were transformed overnight. And I don’t say that to be hyperbolic.
There was a rising movement for gun owners who wanted to have guns for personal protection in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was, like our own era, a time of social disruption and the feeling that maybe people were insecure. And there were very high crime rates at the time as well.
The leadership of the NRA [National Rifle Association] at the time was pretty moderate. They were opposed to a lot of gun control laws, but the leadership hatched a plan to move to Colorado Springs to refocus the organization away from political activity and toward recreational sports, hunting, and conservation.
This really angered a group of hardliners in the membership. And at the annual membership meeting in 1977 in Cincinnati, these hardliners staged a coup of the NRA, where they used the rules of order to elect a whole new board of directors.
Literally when the sun rose the next day, the NRA had been transformed. And the new directors were all committed to political advocacy, fighting gun control, and being much more politically assertive. And that group became an active part of the coalition that led to Ronald Reagan being elected president in 1980, and has since become an even stronger part of the Republican conservative coalition.
Tell us what the New York State Rifle case really is about, and explain how the Supreme Court gets to deregulate guns under the banner of a Second Amendment that says that arms effectively are supposed to be well-regulated.
Most states allow you to carry a concealed firearm if you have a permit — and a growing number of states don’t even require a permit. New York is one of eight states that say you can only carry a gun with a permit. And to get a permit, you have to show that you have some unusual and particularly strong reasons to carry a gun, like you’re being stalked, you’ve been threatened, or you carry a tremendous amount of cash or jewelry with you.
What this case does is question whether that’s a violation of the Second Amendment to so heavily restrict access to concealed carry permits. And the Supreme Court seems almost certain, based on the oral arguments, to say that, yes, the Second Amendment is violated by New York’s rule. The court is probably going to say you can have some training and objective requirements before you let people carry a gun on the street, but you have to provide some mechanism for people to be able to defend themselves.
This will be a great expansion of the Second Amendment. In over two hundred years of history, the Supreme Court has never said that. We’ve had restrictions on concealed carry, like New York’s, for well over one hundred years. In fact, up until the 1980s, most states had exactly the law that New York has today.
But again, that political movement to change America’s gun laws has been affected by the NRA, since they have led a nationwide effort, going state by state, to loosen gun laws. And now they’re going to go after the few remaining holdouts with this Supreme Court case.
I think that spells trouble for the gun safety movement’s agenda on a lot of issues. I think bans on military-style rifles and on high-capacity magazines will likely be called into question in the coming years.
Are we going to get to a place where the court is basically going to say that there is no line, that you can’t regulate weapons or guns based on how powerful they are? I mean, is that a legitimate thing that may actually happen?
I think what the court is going to say is that only those arms that are in common use for lawful purposes by the citizenry already are constitutionally protected. I think the court would easily say that things like shoulder-launch missiles or nuclear weapons or hand grenades, or even machine guns, are not in common use, they’re not commonly owned by law-abiding people.
The difficulty about this test is it means that if there is a political stalemate, and you can’t get regulation for some amount of years, gun owners can just go out and buy all those weapons, and then all of a sudden they become in common use. That’s basically what’s happening with military-style assault rifles. The gun owners have just gone out and bought tens of millions of these firearms since the end of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004, and now they’re in common use.
And we might see this with 3D-printed guns. It may be that if 3D-printed guns are something that Congress were to regulate or prohibit today, then they wouldn’t be in common use. But if we wait twenty years, then maybe they are in common use, and then they’re constitutionally protected.
As somebody who’s studied this so much, do you really legitimately think that there is a future in America being as heavily armed a country as we are? Can we be this heavily armed, and also have a “normal” rate of gun deaths, as it relates to other countries?
I don’t think we can get down to the levels of gun violence that they have in England or Japan or other countries that don’t have such ready access to guns. That’s just not realistic. But we can reduce our numbers. And that should be our goal in the meantime.
The guns are here to stay. There’s just too many of them, the political movement in favor of them is too strong. The NRA is always talking about people coming in and confiscating your guns. We could never get all the guns if we wanted to. So I think we have to focus on reducing gun violence and doing what we can in a bad situation.
Adam Winkler is a professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law. He is the author of We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights.
David Sirota is editor-at-large at Jacobin. He edits the Lever and previously served as a senior adviser and speechwriter on Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign.
Reproductive rights advocates protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on May 2, 2022 following the publication of a draft opinion suggesting Roe v. Wade will soon be overturned. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
“While abortion is still legal, tonight’s report makes clear that our deepest fears are coming true. We have reached a crisis moment for abortion access. We don’t have a moment to spare—we must act now.”
A leaked draft opinionpublished Monday by Politico strongly suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court’s right-wing supermajority will soon strike down Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling enshrining the constitutional right to abortion.
“This is the most alarming sign yet that our nation’s highest court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to abortion as we know it and ripping away our freedom to decide if, when, and how to raise our families,” NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju said in a statement.
In a joint statement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that “if the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past 50 years—not just on women but on all Americans.”
“The Republican-appointed justices’ reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history,” they added.
Asserting that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote in the draft opinion—in which he is reportedly joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—that “we hold that Roe and Casey must be overturned,” a reference to the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion while allowing states to regulate the procedure.
“We can only do our job, which is to interpret the law, apply longstanding principles of stare decisis, and decide this case accordingly,” Alito contended, referring to the legal principle of deference to precedent. Abortion has been a constitutionally enshrined right since 1973—or for a fifth of the nation’s history.
“We therefore hold that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion,” Alito added, “…and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
Reproductive rights advocates say that if Roe is struck down, more than 20 states are certain or likely to outlaw abortion, many via so-called “trigger laws.”
“While this is a draft opinion and abortion is still legal, we need to brace for a future where more and more people are punished and criminalized for seeking and providing abortion care,” said Timmaraju. “Now more than ever, we must support those working to provide abortion care and elect champions who will relentlessly fight for reproductive freedom and take bold action to safeguard abortion rights.”
Following the draft opinion’s publication, hundreds of reproductive rights advocates staged a demonstration outside the Supreme Court, where barriers had already been erected in anticipation of protests.
The Politico article’s authors, Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward, noted that “no draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending.”
Gerstein and Ward said Politico received a copy of the draft from “a person familiar with the court’s proceedings” in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case challenging Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban that reproductive rights advocates have warned could prove Roe‘s “death knell.”
In addition to Roe, Alito also takes aim at Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 ruling overturning the state’s sodomy ban, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, sparking fears that this could be but the beginning of a wider rollback of civil rights won in recent decades.
Advocates stressed the imperative for Congress to act immediately to shield reproductive freedom at the federal level—and for people to stand up and fight for their rights.
“If SCOTUS is going to legislate from the bench and turn back the clock 50 years on Roe v. Wade, then the Senate needs to pass my Women’s Health Protection Act,” tweeted Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), referring to legislation that would codify the right to abortion nationwide.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted: “Congress must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country now. And if there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate to do it, and there are not, we must end the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asserted that “it’s time for the millions who support the Constitution and abortion rights to stand up and make their voices heard. We’re not going back—not ever.”
NAACP graphic celebrating the senate confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the High Court. | AP
WASHINGTON—With historic firsts abounding, including the nation’s first-ever Black and woman Vice President in the chair, senators confirmed the nation’s first-ever Black woman Supreme Court justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the High Court bench.
And the 53-47 vote for Jackson marks yet several more historic firsts, as both senators and advocates for her nomination pointed out. One other notable first: A roar of cheers and applause in the sedate Senate chamber when VP Kamala Harris announced the tally’s result.
“This has taken far too long,” NAACP President Derrick Jackson said in a statement, one of a long list of comments on the historic event of the day.
Barely able to conceal her joy, Mariah Watson, a third-year law student at Harvard Law said, “She showed it can be done. Even after having to work twice as hard to achieve this great victory, she did it.” Watson said, “Judge, I mean Justice Brown, has inspired us all.” She told an MSNBC reporter last night how Judge Brown regularly went back to her law school to talk with and inspire students.
“Fifty-five years ago, former NAACP Chief Counsel Thurgood Marshall broke down the wall when he was confirmed as the first Black American to sit on the Supreme Court. Today, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson shatters the glass ceiling to finally make room for a Black woman on our nation’s highest court,” Derrick Johnson said yesterday.
Black women gathered for a joyful demonstration outside the court as the vote occurred on April 7, and sponsoring groups, including the Service Employees and AFSCME, planned a mass late-afternoon rally today to celebrate.
Besides being the first Black woman in the court’s 233-year history, another first Jackson will bring when she officially takes the oath of office on July 1 is the end of the white-male majority on the nine-justice bench.
When the court starts its new term, with Justice Jackson, next fall, the court will have four white men—all nominated by Republican presidents—four women, and one Black man, Clarence Thomas.
And while one conservative, Chief Justice John Roberts, and five right-wingers will hold ideological sway, the three-woman minority on the court will be Black (Jackson), Latina (Sonia Sotomayor), and Jewish (Elena Kagan). The fourth woman is Donald Trump-named white Amy Coney Barrett.
Jackson will also be the first Floridian native ever on the court, its first former public defender, the first former trial court judge since Justice Sotomayor, the first former defense attorney since Justice Marshall, and the first-ever former magazine reporter and journalist. She wrote for Time in 1992-93.
Unions and civil rights groups hailed the historic nature of Jackson’s ascension from her current post on the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. The one wrench thrown into the celebrations was the partisan nature of the Senate vote. Republicans Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the only Republicans to join all 48 Democrats and both independents in voting for Judge Jackson.
When the Democrats stood in sustained applause lasting a minute after Vice President Harris announced the results only Romney joined them in standing up to applaud. All the other Republicans unceremoniously left the hall, not one able to bring themselves to at least recognize the historic accomplishment that had just been achieved.
AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler—the first-ever woman to lead the nation’s leading labor confederation—called Jackson’s confirmation “a victory for our democracy and our nation.” It marks “a new era for our country,” she stated.
Judge Jackson “personified grace and integrity in the face of many outrageous attacks on her character and impeccable credentials. Judge Jackson has the experience, temperament, and commitment to ensure the judicial fairness we need in an associate justice. Her intellect, legal knowledge, and record of upholding justice under the law will be invaluable as she makes decisions that directly impact the lives of working people, and champions equal rights.
“Judge Jackson’s life story and the milestone she has reached send a potent message to women and girls across this nation that nothing—not even a seat on our highest court—is out of their reach.
The federation listed similar cheers from a wide range of unions: The Communications Workers, the Auto Workers, the Office and Professional Employees, AFA-CWA, the Steelworkers, IATSE, the Professional and Technical Employees, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Teachers (AFT), the Machinists, Actor’s Equity, the Government Employees (AFGE), and AFSCME.
“Justice Jackson is immensely qualified, and our coalition is thrilled to finally see the first Black woman serve on our nation’s highest court. By any standard, Justice Jackson is more than ready for this role,” said Wade Henderson, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—even after LCCHR, in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, sharply criticized the blatant political posturing and lies some members produced during the panel’s confirmation hearings on her nomination.
“She possesses an exemplary record of defending the rights of all people, from her time as a public defender to her years of service as a district and circuit court judge. The Supreme Court has a long way to go toward fully representing our communities and fulfilling the promise of ‘equal justice under law,’ but this confirmation brings us hope that it is possible.
The other 47 Senate Republicans voted “no,” and their attitude was even worse, Henderson wrote the panel. It tied on partisan lines, 11-11, on her nomination. CWA also criticized Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the rest of the GOP for trying to derail the nomination.
LCCHR didn’t name names, but the nastiest attacks came from three white male extremist Republicans who plan presidential runs: Ted Cruz (Texas), Tom Cotton (Arkansas), and Josh Hawley (Missouri), an instigator of the Trumpite mob that invaded the Capitol for an attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021.
“The attacks on Judge Jackson’s record grossly mischaracterize her work and threaten the ideals of our democracy,” LCCHR wrote. “Despite these inappropriate and knowingly misleading attacks, Judge Jackson showed a poised and patient judicial temperament, reminding senators that constitutional protections are not privileges reserved for a select few, but rights afforded to us all. This is a much-needed perspective on our highest court.
“With no basis upon which to honestly question Judge Jackson’s impressive qualifications, some senators made false statements about Judge Jackson’s sentencing practices in a sad and transparent attempt to derail her path to confirmation.
“Attacks on Judge Jackson for her zealous defense of her clients, including her defense of clients detained at Guantanamo Bay, are misguided attempts to score political points while undermining the fundamental right to counsel,” it added.
A bitter Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell turned his back on his celebrating colleagues and walked out of the chamber with everyone in his unhappy caucus following him. McConnell later vowed, in an interview with a reporter, to again discard the Constitution if Republicans should take back the Senate this year. His plan, in that case, would be to block any nominations from coming to the floor, as he did when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland. The Constitution assigns the filling of Supreme Court seats to the president with the “advice and consent” of the Senate. It says nothing about the Senate having the power to keep Court vacancies open until the Senate Majority leader gets a president he likes.
Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.
The latest UN Climate Report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability released Feb. 28 once again urges immediate action and outlines the catastrophic effects that humanity faces with the continued lack of meaningful action. Compiled by 270 researchers from 67 countries, it outlines the impacts that are already unfolding and how these disasters will increase even if warming is limited to the 1.5 Celsius temperature threshold above pre-industrial levels.
The world is currently at around 1.1 C warming and we are already experiencing unprecedented heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods, and extreme weather events that has led to 84 million climate refugees and increasing food and water insecurity. These issues will only multiply as the world warms. The non-binding commitments that came out of the recent COP26 Climate Summit, have us on track for around 2.4 C warming, which would result in mass devastation and displacement for large portions of the global population.
The UN report criticizes the incremental changes currently being implemented as falling far short of the transformational shifts that are needed. The report goes on to lay out the catastrophic impacts of 2 C and 3 C warming and calls for immediate comprehensive action from global governments to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, along with financial support from the wealthy countries for those most vulnerable.
Situation is more urgent than UN report indicates
Due to inadequate infrastructure, weak social safety nets, and a greater reliance on the natural world, the climate impacts already being felt by countries of the Global South have much more devastating effects than climate impacts occurring in the Global North. This is due to the legacy of colonialism and neo-colonialism that has created a development gap that must be addressed by those most responsible for the problem–mainly the United States and the European Union.
While these UN IPCC reports are useful for climate activists and policymakers to point to, we must keep in mind that they take a more conservative approach than independent scientific reports. Since they rely on the consensus of hundreds of contributors and have a several year lag time between data collection and publishing due to the long peer review process, in reality, the situation is even more urgent than what the report outlines as a result of the rapidly changing conditions.
Supreme Court expected to undercut Environmental Protection Agency
Meanwhile in the United States, even meager efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are only in the planning phase are seeing push-back from right-wing forces. On Feb. 28, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency case that aims to undermine the EPAs ability to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, which are the second largest source of planet-warming emissions in the United States.
This case is a preemptive attack by Big Coal and its backers against a nascent regulation to be proposed by the EPA later this year that is expected to draw from the failed Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Opponents of the forthcoming regulation argue that the EPA should not have powers to set industry-wide regulations on power plants, but only to set regulations on individual power plants–undercutting the already weak federal authority to implement significant emissions reductions.
To reach the Biden administration goals of 50% emissions reductions below 2005 levels by 2030–which scientists urge is necessary to keep below 1.5 C warming –will take herculean efforts. The Biden proposal for meager climate actions that stalled out in Congress last year lacked a clear path to achieving this level of reductions, and would be further undermined if the West Virginia case wins. In general, this Supreme Court case would have far-reaching implications toward a future diminishing of the already insufficient powers of the EPA and other regulatory bodies.
The broader question is, how can the United States–which is responsible for the largest share of emissions globally based on historic and per capita contributions–ever achieve the reductions needed to stem climate catastrophe when corporations and their government backers have the power to undermine regulatory authority and legislation? Time and again we see fossil fuel corporations use their bottomless coffers to bully and buy off legislators and regulators through lawsuits, lobbying and campaign contributions. And at the same time, these corporations have spent billions of dollars on PR campaigns to spread disinformation about climate change and their role in creating this crisis.
Capitalism not capable of resolving the crisis
The weak regulatory mechanisms under capitalism and the lack of authority of the UN IPCC to hold countries accountable to their commitments fall far short of meeting the challenge that humanity faces. We need a socialist planned economy that can implement a long term plan to make the transformations that are needed for our very survival: a rapid and just transition off fossil fuels and a restoration of ecosystems to draw down carbon from the atmosphere, restore the water cycle and cool the climate.
We can see glimpses of what is possible in Cuba’s 100-year climate change adaptation plan and China’s rapid reductions in particulate pollution and massive investments in renewable energy that far surpass any other country. Only through a socialist planned economy can such comprehensive shifts occur in the rapid timeframe that is crucial.
Under free market capitalism, the government can only give incentives for corporations to implement technologies that aid in emission reductions through penalties or subsidies, in hopes that enough corporations will “do the right thing.” This haphazard, piecemeal approach to emissions reductions–that can be undone with a new administration, a midterm election, or a Supreme Court ruling–is a far cry from the urgent action that is needed and what is possible for humanity to achieve.
This is why it is crucial that we continue to build a broad people’s movement–a movement of the working class–to force concessions from the top, and in the end, to overthrow the corrupt and irrational system of capitalism and build a society that is based on the needs of the people and the planet.
Climate change is not some crisis that will happen far in the future. It is happening now. We collectively have the tools and knowledge needed to transform society from one that is based on a degenerative relationship with the planet to one that is regenerative and for the benefit of all life. This is what is needed for humanity’s survival. And the time to act is now.
Tina Landis is the author of the book Climate Solutions Beyond Capitalism |Courtesy: Liberation News, a US socialist publication.