Court Justice Law

In one line, abortion ruling raises concerns about other rights

In Friday’s blockbuster decision that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, a line written by Justice Clarence Thomas made legal experts worry over what rights may go next.

Writing separately from the majority opinion, Thomas called on the Supreme Court to apply its legal approach in the abortion case to other rights not laid out in the Constitution. He used as examples three decisions that guaranteed the rights to same-sex relationships, same-sex marriage and contraception.

Thomas wrote that “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” referring to the cases that established those rights.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., in the majority opinion, wrote that nothing in Friday’s ruling “should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” But experts said the line in Thomas’ concurrence threw that into doubt.

Sonia Suter, a George Washington University law professor, said it was a sign at least one Supreme Court justice was ready to fundamentally change how the Supreme Court approaches many constitutional rights covered under the 14th Amendment, known as substantive due process.

Thomas “is ready to burn it all down, he is just ready to get rid of all substantive due process,” Suter said.

By overturning Roe v. Wade the way they did, Suter said that the court could write around Alito’s statements in this case, and overturn the rights Thomas mentioned.

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