Supreme Court nudges the US back to the 1950s

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Going by the logic of six justices of SCOTUS, women’s right to vote could be revoked as it too went unmentioned in the Constitution, writes Prof. Madhav Nalapat

Many say that when President Biden assured the world last year that “America is back”, what he meant was that the US was back to the 1950s. The use of the reverse gear has been evident in the White House, which has returned to the Cold War 1.0 era. The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has been particularly eager to push back the US into what had been a dead past.

For 50 years, citizens of the US had the right to decide whether to go ahead with a pregnancy or not. Women undergoing abortions were often underage, black and poor. Those opposed to abortion talk about being in favour of life. The life they are talking about is not that of the mother but that of the embryo during the stage when it has not reached viability, or the stage until which abortions were permitted in the US as a consequence of the Roe v Wade decision handed down in 1973 by SCOTUS.

The court held that abortion was a right guaranteed by the US Constitution. A few days ago, SCOTUS, by a six to three majority, held that such a right was in fact in violation of the Constitution, as such a procedure was never mentioned in the document that was ratified in 1788. Millions in the US believe that the fair sex had its origin in the rib of the first man.

Small wonder that in some states in the US, teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is banned. Women and men apparently did not evolve, they sprang up from nowhere. Which means that there could not be any difference between those born a million years ago and those born now, something Darwin would have disputed. These millions, among whom appear to be included six Justices of the US Supreme Court, believe that every human being has her or his origin in the pair that was rescued in the distant past together with other life forms from a boat.

However, belief in a common pair of ancestors has not prevented several such individuals from simultaneously believing in racial supremacy, which holds that those of a particular race are far superior to those of other races. These days, now that the hold of those of European descent is diminishing across the world in contrast to 1788 when the US Constitution was ratified, a rising number of individuals of Sinic descent in the new superpower China believe their ethnic group to be superior to all others.

Feelings of racial or religious supremacy (assuming other faiths to be lacking in a pathway to the divine) is impossible to justify. Such views have caused wars and societal turmoil that cost the lives of hundreds of millions across much of human history. The SCOTUS Justices who sent Roe v Wade into the wastepaper basket have a right to their personal beliefs, but should not impose that view on the rest of society in the manner that they are seeking to do.

As has been mentioned, not just abortion but women were not mentioned in the US Constitution. This may be among the reasons why the vote was granted to women in the US only in 1920. Going by the logic of six justices of SCOTUS, this right too could be revoked as it went unmentioned in the Constitution. Was the Supreme Court mentioned in that document? Apparently not, although it is unlikely that Justice Alito and the other five Justices who reversed Roe v Wade would decide that the institution which they now control should be abolished.

Justice Clarence Thomas is the prime mover behind the reversal of rights that has characterised the Supreme Court of the US, especially since the entry of the three Justices appointed by President Donald J. Trump. Although the court is known as the Roberts Court, a more appropriate title may be the Clarence Court, given the influence that the views of Justice Thomas have on the majority in SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States).

In his then role as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden gave short shrift to Anita Hill, who came up with testimony against Thomas in much the same way as another female witness did during the confirmation hearings of Brett Cavanaugh, another Trump appointee. Choosing an African-American who thought in the limiting way that Thomas did about judicial matters, was an inspired move by President George H.W. Bush, who soon afterwards lost the Presidential polls to Bill Clinton.

A second George H.W. Bush term may have done more for the US than Bill Clinton did in his two terms, given the understated way in which Bush removed Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991 without going overboard in the manner that his son George W. Bush did in 2003. It was George H.W. Bush’s quality of being understated and emollient that reduced the chances of Mikhail Gorbachev being ousted as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union until he had completed the meltdown of the USSR.

Yet this is what cost him a second term, once Clinton supporters began to mock him as “Chicken Kiev” for his outwardly soft approach to a superpower nearing meltdown. Under Clinton, both the Wahhabi International as well as the PRC prospered, while he stymied Yeltsin’s efforts to integrate the Russian Federation into the EU and NATO as a consequence of a nudge from the UK, Germany and France, who did not want that behemoth in the “common European home” that both Gorbachev and Yeltsin thirsted to join.

The sorry exit of US forces from Afghanistan in 2021 can be tracked to Clinton’s installation of the Taliban in 1996 as the masters of Afghanistan. The damage being caused to US interests by the SCOTUS rollback of rights long enjoyed by US citizens may not be as stark as the Afghanistan pullout in August 2021, but it is in many ways more severe. Rather than healing divisions, the US Supreme Court is widening them, that too by interpretations of the law that could conceptually at least be used to bring back the burning of witches that was carried out in the US in 1692-93.

Omar Khayyam’s warning that the “moving finger having writ, moves on” is clearly unknown to the six Justices who rolled back Roe v Wade, not to mention other retrogressive decisions. In the process, they have lit a fuse that could lead to turmoil in the US greater than any seen thus far in the history of that country since the 20th century.

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