April 18, 2007 is the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling upholding a federal ban on certain abortion procedures even though the law did not include an exception to protect a woman’s health. And that ruling, which significantly chips away at women’s reproductive freedom, upheld the federal ban even though the Court had struck down a virtually identical state law several years ago.
What had changed in the interim? Well, as Justice Ginsburg observed in her dissent in last year’s case, only the composition of the Court. Justice O’Connor, who had voted with the majority to strike down the state law, had been replaced by Justice Alito, who voted in last year’s case to uphold the ban. Samuel Alito, an extreme, far right nominee, was put on the Supreme Court by President Bush and complicit Senators.
Regardless of one’s views about abortion, the Court’s very obvious, 180-degree reversal of course on the same critical issue of women’s reproductive freedom last year was a stark reminder that who sits on the Court matters. And when it comes to who sits on the Court, it was also a reminder of the importance of elections.
The President elected in November will likely have the opportunity to fill one or more vacancies on the Court. And Senators elected in November will vote on whether or not to confirm that President’s nominees. Although the future of the Court won’t be a line item on the ballot in November, it is definitely at stake on Election Day.
Cross-posted on Daily Kos