Analysis

Pro-abortion politicians react with hyperbole in light of possible Roe reversal

Supreme Court, petition

On page 62 of the Supreme Court draft majority opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which was recently leaked to the press, Justice Samuel Alito wrote

[T]o ensure that our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterized, we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right. Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.

But that didn’t stop politicians across the political Left from making a lot of wild claims to the contrary, regarding privacy rights.

Key Takeaways:

  • President Biden, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and other politicians are misleading Americans regarding the restricting of rights as a result of the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion.
  • Justice Alito specifically noted in the draft opinion that an overturning of Roe applies only “to abortion and no other right.” Those promoting misleading messages are being dishonest and are engaging in the “slippery slope” argument, which is a fear tactic.

President Biden led the charge. According to Yahoo News, the president said on Tuesday that the overturning of Roe v. Wade would represent a “radical” and “fundamental” shift in the rule of law, and would jeopardize other rights. “Every other decision related to the notion of privacy is thrown into question,” Biden said. “Who you marry, whether or not you decide to conceive a child or not, whether or not you can have an abortion, a range of other decisions.” He expressed similar ideas on Twitter.

His sentiments were echoed and expanded upon by several others. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a joint statement, elusively alleging: “[T]he Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past fifty years – not just on women but on all Americans.” The legislators did not go into the specifics of which rights might be restricted.

By contrast, at his press conference on Tuesday, Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois — where abortion would remain legal regardless of any decision overturning Roe v. Wade — went into great detail about supposedly threatened rights, claiming

It goes far beyond the right to an abortion. It means an end to the constitutional right to privacy. … It means they can take away the right to birth control and fertility treatments. … If you think the Republican politicians who have engineered the Court’s reversal of Roe v Wade are going to stop here, let me tell you otherwise.

This is just the beginning. Next, they’re coming for marriage equality. Then, they will take away civil rights from marginalized and minority communities.

Along the same lines, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted: “As we’ve warned, SCOTUS isn’t just coming for abortion – they’re coming for the right to privacy Roe rests on, which includes gay marriage + civil rights.” 

However, this is not a truthful claim. In the draft, Alito references the cases of Obergefell as well as Lawrence, but notes specifically that these decisions are not threatened by an overturning of Roe, writing that abortion is “a unique act” that kills a human being (emphasis added):

Unable to show concrete reliance on Roe and Casey themselves, the Solicitor General suggests that overruling those decisions would “threaten the Court’s precedents holding. that the Due Process Clause protects other rights.” Briof for United States as Amicus Curiae 26 (citing Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U. 8. 644 (2015); Lawrence v. for United Statesas Amicus Curiae 26 (citing Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U. 8. 644 (2015); Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558 (2008); Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479 (1965)).

That is not correct for reasons we have already discussed. As even the Casey plurality recognized, “[a]bortion is a unique act” because it terminates “life or potential life.” 505 U.S, at 852; see also Roe, 410 U. 8., at 159 (abortion is “inherently different from marital intimacy,” “marriage,” or “procreation”).

And to ensure that our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterized, we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right. Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.

Representative Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), meanwhile, tweeted: “The Republicans won’t stop with banning abortion. They want to ban interracial marriage.”

Incidentally, one of the Supreme Court justices who reportedly supports the draft opinion, Clarence Thomas, is in an interracial marriage.

All of these politicians failed to provide any explanation for their dire predictions. None described the means by which any of these threatened outcomes might come to pass, or explained the logic by which they reached their conclusions. This is likely because their arguments are based on fallacy, not logic.

In reality, there is no reason to assume the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion will lead to any of the threatened consequences. These politicians are presenting a classic slippery slope argument, wherein, according to Logically Fallacious, a “first event is suggested to lead to a more significant event, which in turn leads to a more significant event, and so on … [T]he connection of each event is not only unwarranted but with each step it becomes more and more improbable.”

Usually, as Fleet’s “Informal Logical Fallacies” concludes, “the slippery slope argument is used as a fear tactic.”

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