“A legal market with high taxes and overly stringent regulations is still a market in which people aren’t arrested and jailed. Rules can be loosened to what people will tolerate, as they have been elsewhere. But New York officials have yet to learn that markets function based on the choices of participants. The wishes of government regulators who want to use them as social-engineering tools and ATMs don’t really matter. Marijuana markets will thrive so long as there are customers to be served. The question is whether they will thrive in the open under light taxes and regulations, or underground to escape the heavy hands of politicians.”
“Since the Dobbs decision, Wisconsin clinics have been proceeding as if abortion is now illegal in the state based on an 1849 law banning the procedure, except to save the life of the mother. However, state Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, has said he won’t enforce the ban, and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers promised to pardon any doctors convicted of performing an abortion. In fact, on Tuesday, Evers and Kaul announced a legal challenge to the 1849 ban. (Evers has also said he is considering executive action that would limit local prosecutors’ ability to enforce the law.)
But Kaul and Evers could both lose reelection in 2022. Evers’s loss would be especially consequential: Not only might doctors once again face jail time for performing abortions if the 1849 ban is determined to be operative, but also, if it is not, a Republican governor could join forces with the Republican-led legislature to pass a modern abortion ban. The opposite situation — Democrats winning the legislature and working with Evers to enact new abortion protections — is pretty much off the table, though. Wisconsin’s state-legislative maps are heavily biased toward the GOP, so Democrats do not have a realistic shot at winning either chamber.”
“Biden administration officials are now working to undo some of the harmful legal policies put in place by Trump-era attorneys general—less visible than controversial measures like the border wall and family separation, but nonetheless damaging to due process and punitive toward the people who seek asylum on American soil. Last June, Attorney General Merrick Garland scrapped rules that made it difficult for victims of domestic violence or gang violence, as well as family members of threatened individuals, to qualify for asylum.”
“Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in the case, which split the court cleanly along ideological lines. Roberts said the state’s interest in avoiding concerns about establishment of religion did not justify the policy that effectively blocked parents directing funding to religious schools.
“A neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause,” Roberts wrote. “A State’s antiestablishment interest does not justify enactments that exclude some members of the community from an otherwise generally available public benefit because of their religious exercise.”
Under the Maine “tuitioning” program the court struck down on Tuesday, local governments lacking the population to run schools at a certain grade level typically pay for students to be educated at public or private schools of their choice. But, to avoid government funds being used for religious purposes, since 1981 the program has refused to pay for schools providing religious education.
In a 2020 decision on an educational aid program out of Montana, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states could not exclude families or schools from student aid programs simply because the schools were backed by religious institutions.
However, that decision left open the question of whether states could block the use of their funds for explicitly religious or “sectarian” classes.
But in the case decided Tuesday, Roberts explicitly rejected Maine’ arguments that it was only targeting religious teaching and not whether a school was run by a religious group.
“Any attempt to give effect to such a distinction by scrutinizing whether and how a religious school pursues its educational mission would also raise serious concerns about state entanglement with religion and denominational favoritism,” the chief justice wrote.
In what is one of his final dissenting opinions before his planned retirement, Justice Stephen Breyer said the court seems to have lost all interest in enforcing the Constitution’s prohibition on establishment of religion.
“The First Amendment begins by forbidding the government from ‘mak[ing] [any] law respecting an establishment of religion.’ It next forbids them to make any law ‘prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ The Court today pays almost no attention to the words in the first Clause while giving almost exclusive attention to the words in the second,” Breyer wrote.
Breyer also said the court was opening a Pandora’s box with its decision, suggesting that it was simply a way station to requiring all communities to use taxpayer funds to pay for religious schooling.
“We have never previously held what the Court holds today, namely, that a State must (not may) use state funds to pay for religious education as part of a tuition program designed to ensure the provision of free statewide public school education,” Breyer wrote.
“What happens once ‘may’ becomes ‘must’? Does that transformation mean that a school district that pays for public schools must pay equivalent funds to parents who wish to send their children to religious schools?” Breyer asked. “Does it mean that school districts that give vouchers for use at charter schools must pay equivalent funds to parents who wish to give their children a religious education?”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor also dissented, lamenting what she sees as a series of decisions bringing the government closer to direct sponsorship of religious activity.
“This Court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build,” Sotomayor warned. “It is irrational for this Court to hold that the Free Exercise Clause bars Maine from giving money to parents to fund the only type of education the State may provide consistent with the Establishment Clause: a religiously neutral one. Nothing in the Constitution requires today’s result.”
“Forcing American taxpayers to fund private religious education — even when those private schools fail to meet education standards, intentionally discriminate against students, or use public funds to promote religious training, worship, and instruction — erodes the foundation of our democracy and harms students,” NEA President Becky Pringle said in a statement.
A national campaign sponsored by the Education Law Center and Southern Poverty Law Center meanwhile promised to pressure Maine’s legislature into repealing the state tuition program.
Still, the decision’s short-term reach appears to be limited — even if it creates new legal quandaries over the long term.
“Has anything enormous changed? No,” Derek Black, an education and civil rights professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, said of Tuesday’s decision. “But what we are seeing is that all gray and ambiguous or open questions are being resolved to the benefit of religion.”
In the immediate aftermath, Black said the ruling poses serious challenges for states such as Maine and Vermont that have instituted private school voucher programs that prohibit funds from going to religious schools.”
“Noting that “the Constitution makes no reference to abortion,” Alito argues that “no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Although “that provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution,” he says, “any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.'” Alito concludes that “the right to an abortion does not fall within this category.”
That analysis falls short in at least two crucial ways.
First, Alito fails to grapple with the argument that the right to terminate a pregnancy can be understood as a subset of the right to bodily integrity. As the legal scholar Sheldon Gelman detailed in a 1994 Minnesota Law Review article, the right to bodily integrity can be traced back to the Magna Carta. That makes it one of the many rights “retained by the people” (in the words of the Ninth Amendment) that were imported into the Constitution from English law. That right, in other words, is “deeply rooted” in American history and tradition.
Second, Alito’s draft opinion distorts the relevant legal history and thus misstates the historical pedigree of abortion rights. “When the United States was founded and for many subsequent decades, Americans relied on the English common law,” explains an amicus brief that the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians filed in Dobbs. “The common law did not regulate abortion in early pregnancy. Indeed, the common law did not even recognize abortion as occurring at that stage. That is because the common law did not legally acknowledge a fetus as existing separately from a pregnant woman until the woman felt fetal movement, called ‘quickening,’ which could occur as late as the 25th week of pregnancy.”
A survey of founding-era legal authorities confirms this view. William Blackstone’s widely read Commentaries on the Laws of England, first published in 1765, noted that life “begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb.” Under the common law, Blackstone explained, legal penalties for abortion applied only “if a woman is quick with child, and by a potion, or otherwise, killeth it in her womb.” That means abortion was legal in the early stages of pregnancy under the common law.
Blackstone’s writings had an important influence on America’s founding generation. In his 1790 Of the Natural Rights of Individuals, for example, James Wilson, a driving force at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and a leading voice for ratification at Pennsylvania’s convention, repeated Blackstone’s gloss. “In the contemplation of law,” Wilson wrote, “life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb.”
At the time of the founding, no American state had the lawful power to prohibit abortion before quickening because the states adhered to the common law as described by Blackstone and Wilson. We might call this the original understanding of the states’ regulatory powers. That original understanding contradicts Alito’s assertion that abortion rights—at least during the early stages of pregnancy—lack deep roots in American history.”
“If the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), a number of American states will immediately criminalize abortion. Some of those states may also attempt to ban women from traveling out of state for the purpose of obtaining a lawful abortion elsewhere. But any such anti-abortion interstate travel ban would be constitutionally defective for multiple reasons.
First, the Constitution protects the right to travel, which necessarily includes the right to interstate travel. This is a fundamental constitutional right that has been repeatedly recognized by the courts. During the debates over the ratification of the 14th Amendment, the right to travel was invoked as one of the privileges or immunities of citizenship that the amendment was designed to protect from state infringement. For a state to prohibit (or even penalize) the act of leaving that state and doing something perfectly lawful in another state would violate this constitutional safeguard.
Second, an anti-abortion interstate travel ban would run afoul of the Dormant Commerce Clause, a legal doctrine which holds that the Commerce Clause, in addition to authorizing congressional regulation of economic activity that occurs between the states, also forbids the states from enacting their own interstate economic barriers.”
“Finally, there is relevant case law which cuts against the lawfulness of any anti-abortion interstate travel ban. In Planned Parenthood of Kansas v. Nixon (2007), the Missouri Supreme Court reviewed a state law which created a civil cause of action against any person who helped a minor obtain an abortion without parental consent either inside the state or in another state. “Of course, it is beyond Missouri’s authority to regulate conduct that occurs wholly outside of Missouri,” the Missouri Supreme Court observed, and the law at issue “cannot constitutionally be read to apply to such wholly out-of-state conduct. Missouri simply does not have the authority to make lawful out-of-state conduct actionable here, for its laws do not have extraterritorial effect.””