SCOTUS

Sex and Abortion

Sex and Abortion

            Robert A. Levine

The recent Supreme Court ban on abortion is not the first time religious conservatives have tried to take away women’s rights. And we are not the first society where there have been attempts to make women subservient to men and dependent on them. And this is not the first time that religious zealots have tried to tie sexual relationships to having children, trying to deny women the right to sexual pleasure without bearing children. What is wrong with men and women having sex purely for pleasure and not to conceive?

Religion and ancient societies have always been patriarchal in structure, emphasized in the Bible and all religious texts. Remember that Eve was fashioned from Adam’s rib. She was just part of a man while Adam was the superior being. In some primitive societies, women are still considered chattel at the disposal of the men who are their protectors and actual owners. There is even an aura of evil in some religions regarding women, who are labeled as temptresses who will lead men to sin and infidelity. Religious texts do not emphasize pleasure for women in sexual congress, believing that sex is for men to have pleasure and to create children.

Islam allows men to have four wives and original Mormonism also allowed men multiple wives, showing that men were superior beings. Conservative Protestant religions expect their women to stay home and have children, rather than pursue education and careers separate from their men. Religious Catholics believe that use of contraceptives is a sin and that the purpose of sexual intercourse is to produce children. Orthodox Jews are split on abortion but it is felt to be a conjugal duty that a man provide pleasure for his wife in conjugal sex.

In none of the western religions is there any text on the right of men and women who are not married to have sex purely for pleasure. Banning of abortion by the Supreme Court furthers the idea that sex that does not produce children is evil and that the mother must be forced to carry an unwanted child because she sinned by having sex. Of course, many married women become pregnant and believe they cannot afford or do not want to have a child and so have an abortion.

It is not a surprise that all of the Supreme Court Justices who voted to overturn Roe v Wade are religious Catholics, though Justice Gorsuch labels himself as Anglican/Catholic. The fact that these six justices allowed their religious beliefs to guide their decisions against the views of the majority of the nation is a detriment to our democracy. Though it is certainly not necessary to have justices proportional to the nation’s population, it is aberrant to heave 6 or 7 Catholics on the highest court in the land, with all of them appearing to follow religious dogma. How could they not overturn Roe v Wade when they have been taught all of their lives that abortion is a grave sin?

When John Kennedy was elected president in 1960, many Americans called him a papist, believing that he would be adherent to church doctrine. This did not occur but it is now the Supreme Court that is following the precepts of their church against the popular will. Their decision to allow religious schools to receive state funding in Maine that was given to private schools is further evidence of their religious beliefs and is contrary to the Founders desire for the separation of church and state. No religious institutions should be receiving government funds. And no teachers or coaches should be able to hold prayer sessions on public property after or during a school function where students might feel obligated to participate.

These justices who are Catholic acolytes might do better to try and clear their church of its rampant pedophilia which seems to be an ingrained problem at all levels, instead of interfering with secular laws that have been on the books for fifty years and have the support of the majority of the population. It is also unfair that presidents who did not win the popular elections and senators who represent a minority of the population have been able by hook and crook to fashion a minority Supreme Court who follow their religious precepts in ruling on their cases, bringing America back to a less open and less modern age. There are a number of ways that the Court could be changed to be made more modern and realize that sex for pleasure between loving individuals is not such a bad thing after all, even if it results in an unintended pregnancy. Women should be able to have children when they desire it, and abortion and contraception should not be made more difficult because of prudish men and one woman.

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Trump's Lasting Legacy

Trump’s Lasting Legacy

                        Robert A. Levine

Excluding Trump’s role in changing America’s relationship with NATO and other nations, his largest and lasting domestic impact is and will be his three appointees to the Supreme Court. These appointments transformed the Court from a moderate political body into a deeply conservative one which with lifetime tenure for justices will remain so for decades to come. There are two ways this conservative predilection could change, neither one of them very likely.

One would be by placing term limits on SCOTUS justices. Instead of life time appointments, this could be changed by a constitutional amendment to a set number of years, probably a lengthy term of ten, twelve or eighteen years. Given the increase in life expectancy since the Founding Fathers approved the Constitution, from 30 to 40 years in the 1700s, to around 80 in the 2000s, this would not be an unrealistic move. Depending on a justice’s age when appointed to the Court, the expected length of a term in the early 1800s might have been considered to be around 20 years or less. An appointment to the Court currently could be 40 years or more if an appointment were made when a person was in his or her forties. These gerontologic justices may well be out of touch with changes in society by the time they retire or die. Setting term limits would restore some credibility to the Court which has seen diminished approval ratings by the general public in recent years.

Another suggestion in a similar vein is to allow every president to appoint two justices in every four year presidential term, with the two longest standing justices retiring. With current standards, a president like Trump could appoint three justices in one term, while another president might get to appoint none, purely by chance. Having a set law on the books to provide equitable appointments by presidents to the Court would be fairer and allow more representation from different political groups. Trump was elected in 2016 by a minority of the American population and the senators who approved his nominees also represented a minority of Americans. These appointments are not indicative of a democratic system.

Some SCOTUS analysts believe that the way to transform the Court is to increase the number of justices on the Court as the population of the nation has grown dramatically since the Constitution was written. Only a small number of cases presented are handled by the Court each year and having more Justices might allow a greater number of cases to be examined and ruled upon. Opponents have called this “packing the Court” but it does seem to have some basis in the reality of the nation’s increased population.

Unfortunately, the way the Senate is structured, with two members from each state regardless of population, make new laws or dramatic changes in old ones unlikely. The Founding Fathers in their infinite wisdom had two senators represent each state in the union regardless of population. This means that California with 20 million citizens and Wyoming with 600,000 each have the same power to write laws in the Senate. Small rural states tend to be generally conservative and send conservative senators to Washington to represent them. This results in more conservative Justices being appointed to the Supreme Court.

We can point to Mitch McConnell refusing to appoint Merrick Garland to SCOTUS when he was nominated by President Obama during his last year in office. McConnell said that appointments to the Court should not be made during a president’s last year in office as the electorate should make this decision depending on for whom they vote. However, McConnell turned 180 degrees when Amy Coney Barrett was nominated by Trump in the last few months of his term, rapidly pushing her nomination through the Senate. McConnell did not seem to be bothered by his barefaced lie.

So far in the recent SCOTUS term, we have seen the Justices overturn Roe v Wade which had been law for half a century, disregarding prior precedents. Open carry of firearms was supported by the Court, notwithstanding the mass killings and the plague of individual deaths that have occurred because of the easy availability of guns. The Justices have also approved state payments to private religious schools, disregarding the separation of church and state. The three Justices appointed by Trump have formed the majority in all three cases.  This is his lasting legacy and does not seem likely to change in the foreseeable future unless changes are wrought in the Constitution, another unlikely possibility. Conservatives gaming the system have won.

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A Partisan SCOTUS- Is It Here To Stay?

A Partisan SCOTUS- Is It Here To Stay?                                                                                                            

Robert A. Levine      

McConnell and Trump got what they wanted. A partisan Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority. McConnell prevailed by using unethical tactics, but he did not care. Though Trump and McConnell did not and still don’t see eye to eye on many issues, they both agreed that a conservative Supreme Court was a vital matter and any means that were necessary to reach their objective was worth it: by hook or by crook and they used both. No moral or ethical compass for either.

The unethical procedures began in the last year of Obama’s presidency when a seat opened up on the Supreme Court and the president nominated Merrick Garland, a centrist candidate who was well thought of in legal circles for the position. Disregarding precedent, McConnell decided that a nominee for the highest court should not be confirmed in the last year of a president’s term. This had never happened before, but McConnell proclaimed a new rule. He was hoping that a conservative Republican would next win the presidency and nominate a conservative candidate for the Court. His wishes were granted and Trump was elected president because of the arcane and undemocratic mechanism of the Electoral College, even though Trump lost the popular vote.

Trump’s initial nominee to the Court was conservative Neil Gorsuch who took the seat that should have gone to Merrick Garland. His second nominee was conservative Brett Kavanaugh who was accused of attempted rape by Professor Christine Blasey Ford when he was a high school student, and of sexual assaults on other occasions. He was also known in high school and at Yale as a heavy drinker. The FBI was not given permission by Trump and the Justice Department to look into all the complaints of sexual assault before Kavanaugh was confirmed by a Republican majority Senate. It was believed that Kavanaugh had likely lied to the Senate when questioned about the assaults.

The most hypocritical confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee shepherded in by McConnell came at the end of October 2020 when President Trump only had two and a half months left on his term. Amy Coney Barrett, another conservative was confirmed by the Republican controlled Senate, 52-48. She rose from being a little known law professor at Notre Dame to the Supreme Court in three years. Mitch McConnell simply changed his mind about nominating a member of the Court in the last year of a presidential term when that person happened to be a staunch conservative. And it wasn’t in the last year but the last two and a half months. Barrett replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal justice who was held in very high regard in legal circles.

Prior to Trump’s presidency in 2013, the Supreme Court voted to overturn the main part of the 1965 voting rights act by a 5-4 vote, allowing nine states, mainly in the South, to alter their voting laws without obtaining federal approval in advance. The Court said that society had changed and federal supervision was no longer necessary. Since then, there have been major efforts to suppress minority voting in a number of states, by making registration and voting much more difficult. In fact, the Justice Department recently sued the state of Texas for their restrictive laws, a case that is certain to go before the Supreme Court. This term, the Court will also rule on a restrictive law regarding abortion passed by the state of Mississippi. Given the questioning by the Court of both sides, it is likely that Mississippi’s law will be upheld and Roe v Wade may even be overturned.

It is sad for our democracy that presidents who lost the popular vote have handed the Supreme Court over to conservatives who were confirmed by Senators who in total had less popular votes in being elected than their Democratic opponents. Is this the way democracy works? Unfortunately, it is. The only way this partisan Court can be changed is by Democrats maintaining control of the Senate and voting to expand the number of justices on the Court. Limiting the terms of justices so there is more frequent turnover would also be a sensible idea.     

www.robertlevinebooks.com                 Buy The Uninformed Voter on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.