Alito rejects criticism of abortion ruling overturning Roe v. Wade

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Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., in a speech in Rome, dismissed criticism from foreign officials who he said ‘castigated’ his overturning opinion Roe vs. Wadethe landmark decision that granted a constitutional right to abortion.

Speaking last week at a conference promoting religious freedom, Alito for the first time spoke publicly about the ruling he wrote in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationwhich he referred to during his remarks as cases “whose name cannot be pronounced”.

“I had the honor of writing this mandate, I believe, the only Supreme Court decision in the history of this institution that has been lambasted by a whole host of foreign leaders who felt perfectly fine commenting on the American law,” Alito said.

“One of them was a former [United Kingdom] Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But he paid the price,” joked Alito to cheers from the crowd. Johnson has been embroiled in a scandal and announced his intention to step down this month.

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Alito spoke July 21 at the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit, sponsored by the Religious Liberty Initiative at the university’s law school. It was established in 2020 to promote “religious freedom for people of all faiths through scholarship, events, and the law school’s religious freedom clinic,” which files briefs at the Supreme Court.

Judges often do not disclose their speeches in advance, and Alito rose to prominence Thursday after the law school issued a press release and posted a video of the speech on YouTube.

Alito said he resisted the list of examples from other countries whose religious freedom advocacy he felt was insufficient, even though he said foreign leaders – he also mentioned French President Emmanuel Macron and the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – criticized the court’s decision to remove the federal right to abortion.

The ruling returned abortion regulation to states, and since then a number have dramatically restricted the procedure and 11 states have limited abortion after six weeks or effectively banned it, rights groups say. to abortion.

The audience laughed at what Alito sarcastically said was Britain’s most hurtful criticism of Prince Harry.

“But what really hurt me – what really hurt me – was when the Duke of Sussex addressed the United Nations and seemed to compare the decision whose name cannot be pronounced with the Russian attack on Ukraine,” Alito said.

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Alito in his speeches often says that religious freedom is not treated with as much respect as other constitutional rights. But the Supreme Court’s term that just ended was nothing short of a complete victory for religious groups. Reversal deer was a longstanding goal of religious conservatives, but separately the court’s six conservative justices have consistently sided with the protection of religious faith due to concerns about the government’s endorsement of religion.

He ruled for a coach disciplined by his school board for midfielder’s prayers after games, said Boston was not free to reject a Christian group’s request to fly its flag at the hotel in city ​​lest it appear to be an endorsement of religion if other groups are given the privilege, and said Maine cannot prohibit religious schools from receiving public tuition grants extended to other private schools .

Still, Alito said some see religious faith as akin to other enthusiasms, such as support for professional sports teams. He wondered if some of his dissenting colleagues fully grasped the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom.

The judge, who the video now shows sports a beard, offered a hypothesis about three lawyers entering a court that demands the removal of head coverings: a Jew wearing a yarmulke, a Muslim wearing a headscarf and a man wearing a hat of the Green Bay Packers. As to whether the man in the Packers cap should be greeted the same as the others, Alito said, “To me, the Constitution of the United States provides a clear answer.”

He added: “Some of my colleagues are not so sure. But to me, the text tells the story: the Constitution protects the free exercise of religion, it does not support the free exercise of supporting the Packers. Alito did not say why he thought some of his colleagues might disagree.

Alito said that for some, the protection of religious freedom comes down to freedom of worship. “When you go out into the public square, in the light of day, you better behave like a good secular citizen,” he said.

Alito said protecting religious freedom is also important for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. “Religious freedom and other basic rights tend to go hand in hand,” he said.

The judges parted ways after their grudge session, which the Dobbs decision was only one decision which divided the conservatives and the liberals of the court. There are signs that the discord remains.

Kagan says questions of legitimacy are risky for Supreme Court

In a speech to a court conference last week, liberal Justice Elena Kagan said the court’s legitimacy is threatened when long-standing precedent is overturned and the court’s actions are seen as being driven by change. staff among the judges.

“If over time the court loses its connection to the public and public sentiment, that’s a dangerous thing for democracy,” Kagan told a conference of judges and lawyers in Montana.

She added: “People are rightly suspicious if a judge leaves court or dies and another judge takes their place and suddenly the law changes for you.”

At a separate event on Thursday, two other judges struck a more conventional and optimistic tone about the court’s work.

In a taped civics conversation, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Amy Coney Barrett spoke about their efforts to bridge differences with colleagues by making personal connections at court lunches and birthday celebrations.

“Each of my colleagues is equally passionate about the Constitution, our system of government, and doing things right the way I am,” Sotomayor said. “We may disagree on how to get there. We often do. But that doesn’t mean I look at them and say, “You’re bad people. I accept that this is a difference of opinion.

Barrett insisted the judges had “genuine affection for each other” and said that while she and Sotomayor sometimes disagreed, Sotomayor sometimes persuaded her to change her original position. “We try to work together behind the scenes. We don’t enter and we don’t make decisions. We work together a lot and we talk,” Barrett said. “We change our minds.”

Ann E. Marimow contributed to this report.

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