In a Rare Move for a Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Alito Ridicules International Abortion Reversal Critics!
In his first public comments since the ruling last month, Justice Samuel Alito made fun of foreign leaders who criticized the Supreme Court decision he wrote that overturned a constitutional right to abortion. Some people agreed with what the judge said, but he or she also got more criticism.
Alito, who is 72 years old, talked about abortion for only a few minutes at a religious freedom summit in Rome. Even then, he only did so to talk about his foreign critics, which is an unusual thing for a high court justice to do.
Alito, who was wearing a tuxedo and a beard that he sometimes grows when the court is not in session, joked that the ruling he wrote had been “lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders” and that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had “paid the price” for his comments. Johnson said that the decision was “a big step backward” right before he resigned because of two separate ethics investigations.
The conservative majority of the court made a decision that led about a dozen states to shut down or severely limit abortions within a few days. Half of the states in the U.S. are likely to ban or severely limit the procedure in the future.
Alito also made people laugh at the conference, which was put on by the law school at the University of Notre Dame. He said that comments made by Britain’s Prince Harry were “what hurt me.” Last week, Harry talked to the United Nations about how the “rolling back of constitutional rights here in the United States” was one of a series of crises that were all coming together. The Russian invasion of Ukraine was another one of these crises.
Alito also talked about French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his talk at the invitation-only event on July 21 in Rome. This week, the law school put up the video. Alito was not known to be speaking at the conference until the day of the event.
While justices routinely engage in pointed exchanges with their colleagues in dueling opinions, they rarely respond to outside critics. That’s especially true when talking about foreign leaders in an appearance outside the U.S., said Neil Siegel, professor of law and political science at Duke Law School.
“His tone can be very rude and off-putting. It seems like he doesn’t care that tens of millions of people in this country and around the world have strong disagreements with him “he said. “I think the most important thing is that our justices aren’t supposed to act like this,” she said.
Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional law professor at Yale Law School, said that no rule says justices can’t talk about cases in public after they have been decided. Alito didn’t say anything about the issue of abortion itself. Instead, he talked about how foreign dignitaries sometimes talk about American law without knowing much about it. Amar said that Johnson may have been trying to draw attention away from his family problems.
“This was slightly impertinent on their part,” Amar said, who also praised Alito for responding “with a little bit of wit and style.”
Friday, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in a tweet that the justice’s speech was political and that it “should be alarming to anyone.”
The speech comes at a time when the number of Americans who say they are losing faith in the Supreme Court has gone up sharply. This week, a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 43 percent of Americans have “hardly any confidence” in the court. This is up from just 27 percent three months ago.
The abortion ruling was one of several big ones this summer, but the most important one was overturning Roe v. Wade and ending a nearly 50-year guarantee of abortion rights.
It has also caused big changes in other kinds of medical care. For example, some doctors won’t treat serious health problems related to reproductive care right away out of fear of breaking strict abortion laws.
Alito’s speech was mostly about praising religious freedom, which is another area where conservatives have won at the Supreme Court in cases involving tax dollars for religious schools in Maine and a football coach’s right to pray at the 50-yard line.
He has been a justice since President George W. Bush chose him to be one in 2006.
Four years later, while attending President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, Alito was caught on camera mouthing the words “not true” in response to Obama’s also unusual criticism of another major conservative-driven court decision, the Citizens United case, which opened the floodgates for corporate and union spending in federal election campaigns.
Alito has never talked about this controversy in public, but it seems clear from the questions he asked when the court heard arguments that he disagreed with Obama when he said that the ruling went against a century of law.