Aziz Huq Argues Alito’s Draft Dobbs Opinion Makes Weak Case

Opinion | Alito’s Case for Overturning Roe is Weak for a Reason

If the draft majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito disclosed by POLITICO Monday night is any guide, the constitutional right to abortion has only a few days or weeks left to go. The most conservative majority of the Supreme Court that was, already a decade ago, arguably the “most conservative in modern history” has singled out Roe for excoriation and oblivion. But what marked out Roe to this fate, and not many other decisions? It is not the reasons provided in the draft Alito opinion: The explanation for Roe’s demise is to be found not in law, per se, but in the court’s entanglement in our pernicious moment of partisan hyperpolarization and the Republican Party’s inextricable link to anti-abortion politics.

Chief Justice John Roberts has acknowledged the document is authentic, and its style certainly suggests it is indeed by Alito. So, how does his rationale for overturning Roe stack up as a justification for a large, and likely convulsive, change in American society? The reasons flagged by the draft opinion fall painfully short. In fact, their profound weakness highlights precisely why Roe and abortion rights have been singled out. Go down the list of contentious legal questions, and it quickly becomes clear that conservatives do not follow Alito’s approach anywhere else besides Roe.

For instance, the draft majority opinion spills a good deal of ink on the history of abortion regulation in England and the United States (skimming over, as it does it, the considerable periods in which abortion was left to the free choice of women). But precisely this kind of appeal to a history of close regulation can be made in respect to the Second Amendment right to bear arms. As the legal scholars Reva Siegel and Joseph Blocher documented in extensive detail, there is a “centuries” old tradition of common law rules regulating weapons, especially when they are carried into the public sphere. This has not stopped the conservative justices from creating a novel individual right to bear arms and extending that right against both the federal and the state governments.

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