‘Grave betrayal of trust’ made conservative supreme court justices targets, author of opinion reversing Roe v Wade claims
Justice Samuel Alito also said that to claim the court had acted illegitimately ‘crosses an important line’ – a remark clearly directly at the liberal justice Elena Kagan.
Ed Pilkington in New York
Wed 26 Oct 2022 08.34 EDT
Speaking in Washington at a rightwing thinktank, the Heritage Foundation, Alito called the leak a month before the final ruling was released “a grave betrayal of trust by somebody” that put several justices in danger.
“The leak also made those of us who were thought to be in the majority in support of overruling Roe and Casey targets for assassination because it gave people a rational reason to think they could prevent that from happening by killing one of us.”
Alito’s draft opinion, arguing for overturning the two definitive precedents that for decades established a woman’s constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy – Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey – was leaked to Politico, which published it on 2 May. The final ruling, with only minor amendments, was released on 24 June.
A leak inquiry was ordered by the chief justice, John Roberts, but the outcome is still pending.
In his 75-minute Q&A session, Alito pointed to the arrest of a man outside the Maryland home of one conservative justice, Brett Kavanaugh, two weeks before the release of the abortion ruling.
The man, who was armed with a knife and pistol and was later charged with attempted murder, reportedly told law enforcement he was upset about Alito’s leaked draft opinion.
Alito also used the Heritage platform to return to an internal dispute between members of the court that has been rumbling for several weeks in the wake of the abortion ruling.
“Everybody is free to criticize our reasoning, and in strong terms … But to say the court is exhibiting lack of integrity is something quite different,” he said.
He added: “Someone also crosses an important line when they say that the court is acting in a way that is illegitimate. I don’t think that anybody in a position of authority should make that claim lightly.”
His remarks were clearly directed at Elena Kagan, one of the three liberal justices who now form the outvoted rump of the court. Following the upending of abortion rights, Kagan has spoken out in unusually forthright terms, accusing the conservative supermajority of damaging the legitimacy and standing of the court.
In September, she said the majority was overstepping the mark by introducing politics into its calculations.
“When courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process … that’s when there’s a problem,” Kagan said.
The end of the right to abortion in the United States will have devastating consequences around the world. A half century ago, the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v Wade decision inspired a new era of reproductive freedom in dozens of countries. The court’s reversal will empower anti-abortion voices everywhere, threatening reproductive freedom and the right to control one’s destiny.
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