SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — As protests continue across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, WSAV talked to two people who have spent much of their lives studying the U.S. Constitution and teaching political science.
Dr. Bruce Mallard, a former political science professor said he can’t really remember anything similar in terms of a law that has been in place for so long.
“So, I think the fact it was overturned was a big shock to people especially a precedent that’s been in effect for 50 years,” said Mallard. “But the thing that was not surprising was is that it was based on a right that’s really not in the Constitution, the right to privacy has been implied by more liberal judges over time as a right that comes from other rights. And so, it was very easy for the Justices to say, as they did, well, it’s not in the Constitution.”
Mallard says he was surprised in some ways by the decision because the majority of Americans do support abortion.
“Still, a number of people have been eager to say law is not based on public opinion, that law is not based on what people like,” Mallard says. “But I’m not so sure that law in some ways shouldn’t serve the people’s interests and preferences.
Dr. Maureen Stobb is an attorney and Associate Professor of Political Science at Georgia Southern University. She said that the decision was ‘narrow’ in terms of focusing on abortion versus other types of privacy issues.
“This decision goes out of its way to make sure it focuses on what is distinct about abortion in terms of what one side terms the destruction of a ‘potential life’ and what the other side terms the destruction of an unborn human being, and they repeat that throughout the opinion,” said Stobb.
She also says the decision looks at what Roe critics have often asserted was flawed reasoning in Roe’s original passage.
“They were able to quote scholars from across the board and some of the most well-known legal scholars talking about the weakness of Roe’s reasoning which has always been something that has undermined that opinion, i.e. that it did not have strong legal reasoning, it has a lot of policy arguments and incorrect historical arguments.”
She also said the decision explores what the Supreme Court calls the workability or the unworkability of the Roe standard and how it’s engendered so much litigation and so much political controversy.
“So, they have to go through a list, they can’t just overturn a precedent because they don’t like it,” said Dodd.
“Ultimately, what the court is saying is not that abortion should be illegal but that this is not a constitutional question and they’re returning it back to the states and the people to decide through democratic channels whether or not or to what extent there should be restrictions on abortion,” she said.
Since Friday, nine states have banned abortion. The state of Georgia is seeking to implement a law passed in 2019 that would ban abortion after six weeks.
Mallard says while Justices in the past said the Constitution implies certain powers and we have expanded some areas to include that concept, the Republicans and conservatives which often be the same thing, tend to prefer a very literal reading of the Constitution.
“They would like to interpret it the way it was originally written which is kind of hard to determine more than 200 years later,” said Mallard. “So, when you look at it literally the word (abortion) isn’t in there anywhere of course a lot of words aren’t in there anywhere that we have based Supreme Court decisions on.”