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Whether or not Amy Coney Barrett gets on the Supreme Court, abortion rights should stand

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trumps nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, meets with Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. (Erin Scott/Pool via AP)
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, is shown on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 1. (Erin Scott / Pool via Associated Press)

For nearly half a century, women in the United States have had a constitutional right to a safe and legal abortion.  And for most of that time, abortion opponents have been trying to take it away. Even as millions of women have availed themselves of that right, nothing short of a war has been waged on their access to abortion. The results include a congressional ban (called the Hyde Amendment) on federal money for abortions and a patchwork of unnecessary state laws that have forced numerous abortion providers to shut down and left some states with a single clinic.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel aptly summarized the situation in 2013 when he issued an injunction against a Texas law that would have imposed new demands on abortion providers. Abortion, Yeakel wrote, “is the most divisive issue to face this country since slavery.”

But opponents have yet to dislodge the bedrock of abortion rights: the Supreme Court’s holding in Roe vs. Wade (1973) that the 14th Amendment guarantees a right to privacy, which includes the right to have an abortion.

Before Roe, women were at the mercy of laws handed down by a profoundly patriarchal, sexist society that believed the conception of a fetus was a sacrosanct event and that women were simply the vessels that carry it. Only four states had legalized abortion for any reason. In other states it was completely outlawed or permitted only if the woman’s life or mental health was in peril.

For many women, that meant a harrowing and often fruitless search for someone — preferably a medical doctor — who would perform an abortion illegally, often for a preposterous fee. A Guttmacher Institute researcher

estimated that in 1972 alone, 130,000 women obtained illegal or self-induced procedures, 39 of whom died; from 1972 to 1974, the mortality rate due to illegal abortion for nonwhite women was 12 times that for white women.

In the years since then, the basic tenet of Roe has been reaffirmed by the court over and over again. Revisiting the issue nearly two decades later, the high court said in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey (1992) that women have a right to an abortion up to the point when the fetus was viable, although beyond that point, the government has an interest in protecting both the fetus and the woman’s health.  That decision set an important standard: a law cannot be enacted simply to place a substantial obstacle or burden in the way of an abortion. 

Yeakel applied that standard when he blocked the Texas law, which would have required doctors who provided abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and abortion clinics to be outfitted like ambulatory surgical centers. The Supreme Court agreed in Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt (2016), dismissing the law as a

Fauci calls Amy Coney Barrett ceremony in Rose Garden ‘superspreader event’

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, on Friday called President Donald Trump’s Rose Garden ceremony last month announcing Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court a “superspreader event.”

Fauci, who was interviewed by CBS News Radio’s White House correspondent Steven Portnoy, defended the efficacy of wearing masks to slow the spread of Covid-19 and used the ceremony as an example.

“Well, I think the data speaks for themselves. We had a superspreader event in the White House and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks,” he said. “So the data speak for themselves.”

This is not the first time Fauci has been at odds with Trump, who has had a cavalier attitude toward Covid-19 since being released from the hospital Monday after being infected with the virus, and has boasted about his apparent recovery and given mixed messaging around wearing masks.

Fauci survived a previous White House attempt to discredit him after he contradicted the president’s more optimistic assessment of the progress of the pandemic and corrected the president’s claim that the virus is the same as the flu.

Trump announced Barrett, a federal appeals judge, as his nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the next Supreme Court justice at an outdoor ceremony Sept. 26, attended by more than 150 people, many of whom did not wear masks or practice social distancing.

In addition to the president and the first lady, several other people who were at the ceremony have been confirmed to have Covid-19: former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, Republican Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah, University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins and a White House journalist.

Following that event, the number of people in Trump’s orbit who have tested positive for the coronavirus is growing, including more than a dozen aides at the White House and on the Trump campaign.

Fauci also contradicted the president, but did not mention his name, when asked about references to cures for Covid-19, saying it “leads to a lot of confusion,” noting there are promising treatments but no known cure. Trump has called the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals drug he received a miracle “cure” for the virus.

Fauci also said he is worried Americans might not take the virus seriously as the president touts his apparent recovery.

“I think a misperception on the part of some is that this isn’t a particularly serious situation and because so many people do well, that you don’t really have to take it seriously,” he said. “And that’s a misperception we have to overcome because you don’t want to trivialize the disease because it has the capability of seriously making an individual seriously ill and also killing individuals, usually the elderly, and usually those who have underlying medical conditions.”

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