The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case involving a Mississippi law that bans most abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy. To many, the suit provides a very real chance for the court to overrule or limit the precedents set by 1973’s Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey — something Justice Clarence Thomas has long been open about supporting.
Now, as the court weighs its biggest abortion case in decades, a Washington-based opinion columnist for Canada’s The Globe and Mail lamented that Thomas has firmly established himself as “the left’s worst nightmare.”
Writing Wednesday, Lawrence Martin said Thomas has emerged in recent years as a “prime-time powerhouse, a legal luminary, the court’s conservative standard-bearer” who is revered by the right and hated by the left.
The main reason for that? Thomas’ strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution and his view of what America’s founders intended its verbiage to mean.
It’s a mindset that applies to more than just the issue of abortion — and one that Martin contends is “outdated.” But with a 6–3 majority for conservatives on the high court, it may just be the position that wins out this time around.
During Wednesday’s oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, Justice Thomas pressed an attorney representing an abortion clinic on what, exactly, they believed enshrined the “right” to abortion in the Constitution. Later, he brought up that line of questioning again when addressing the U.S. solicitor general, who was also arguing on behalf of abortion advocates.
“Is it specifically abortion? Is it liberty? Is it autonomy? Is it privacy?” the justice pressed.
“I understand we’re talking about abortion here, but what is confusing is that we — if we were talking about the Second Amendment, I know exactly what we’re talking about,” he added.
“If we’re talking about the Fourth Amendment, I know what we’re talking about because it’s written. It’s there,” he said. “What specifically is the right here that we’re talking about?”
Thomas stays the course
The Washington Examiner, a right-leaning news site, took a different track than Martin, but seemed to arrive at a similar conclusion: Justice Thomas has ascended to the role of lead figure on the Supreme Court, and that nightmarish reality of constitutionalism for the left was cemented by the proceedings on Wednesday.
The Examiner noted that Thomas’ remarks this week paralleled the position he had staked out in dissent in a 2020 ruling striking down a Louisiana abortion law, which also mirrored his dissent nearly 30 years earlier in Casey.
“Our abortion precedents are grievously wrong and should be overruled,” Thomas wrote last year, according to the Examiner. “The Constitution does not constrain the States’ ability to regulate or even prohibit abortion.”