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Opinion: Abortion. Church-state wall. Guns. The Supreme Court’s disgraceful week

A crowd of people hold signs behind a banner that reads "We won't go back!"
Abortion rights activists gathered outside the Supreme Court in Washington after Roe vs. Wade was overturned Friday.
(Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)
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Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, June 24, 2022. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

Since reading portions of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade, I have been in a state achingly similar to so many moments since 2016: putting on a brave, if dour, face for my children, pretending everything is OK when really none of it is. On Friday, after learning of the decision, I drove my 6-year-old son and his friend to summer day camp, listening to their unceasing questions and blissful observations of the passing world as if it were any other morning and not one in which a constitutional right for more than half the people in this country had been taken away.

The shock of the abortion decision, something a leaked draft opinion months ago warned us was coming, may cloud our memory of what has been one of the Supreme Court’s most retrogressive weeks. It got off to an inauspicious start Monday, when the court decided that Maine must subsidize tuition at private religious schools along with nonreligious ones, a massive breach of the separation of church and state. On Thursday, the court overruled New York state’s century-old restrictions on carrying loaded, concealed handguns in public, a stunning expansion of 2nd Amendment rights at a time of outcry over mass shootings and school safety (and, finally, some action by Congress). And on Friday, the court delivered the coup de grace to any pretense of nonpartisanship or stare decisis when it overturned Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, going much further than they needed if they simply wanted to uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban (which would have been bad enough).

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Put another way, you know it’s been a historically awful week for American constitutional law if UC Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky has penned not one (church-state separation), not two (gun laws), but three op-ed articles excoriating the Supreme Court for its partisan hackery.

The offenses, of course, are not just to the Constitution. More importantly, women and others capable of getting pregnant who went to sleep Thursday night constitutionally endowed with the right to abortion may now be in mortal danger. This is especially true for Black women, writes Linda Goler Blount. She makes the reality painfully clear: “The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe means Black women and their families will suffer the most. As a recent study from Duke University found, a total nationwide abortion ban would increase pregnancy-related deaths for women overall by an estimated 21% — and pregnancy-related deaths among Black women by 33%.”

Tragically, we enter this new reality aware of exactly what we face — because some of us have experienced it. Last month, a retired physician who worked an “infection abortion” ward in Los Angeles more than 60 years ago expressed grave concern that what he saw would return to a post-Roe country. He also shared his experience and expertise in the latest installment of our “Hear Me Out” video series. Previously, letter writers discussed their harrowing ordeals with botched, illegal abortions, echoing what the doctor wrote: “If Roe vs. Wade were repealed and abortions were banned in many states, there would again be hospital wards filled with dying women, and many more disturbed women and children in America. We must not permit Roe vs. Wade to be reversed.”

But we did permit Roe to be reversed, knowing full well the consequences already suffered by people who are alive today and willing to tell their stories. We heard those stories. We published those stories. Many women and others denied access to safe, legal, professional abortion services have spoken out, sharing their trauma in the hope that others who may become pregnant are spared their dehumanizing, dangerous experiences.

Given the experiences shared from the pre-Roe era, we can sadly anticipate what’s to come in the current and future post-Roe era. What’s harder to predict is how far the court will take its reasoning, what other constitutional safeguards extended to marginalized groups it will dismantle. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas left some disturbing clues about where his far-right colleagues are headed on gay marriage and access to birth control.

Getting back to my children (because, as a parent, seemingly everything that happens feels like it’s about them), it’s clear the unflappable-dad charade is over. This isn’t OK — it wasn’t in 2020 when the pandemic started killing hundreds and then thousands of us and the president acted as if it was no big deal; it wasn’t when a mob sacked the Capitol and imperiled the voting rights my kids, as citizens, will soon inherit; it wasn’t when 19 children just like them were murdered in Texas; and it’s not now that the constitutional rights their parents and grandparents enjoyed are under attack.

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The insurrection won’t end until Trump is prosecuted and disqualified from future office. Can’t say I disagree with what Laurence H. Tribe, Phillip Allen Lacovara and Dennis Aftergut write (and I say that without an ounce of glee): “In a powerful warning Thursday, the patron saint of the conservative legal movement, former federal appellate Judge J. Michael Luttig, testified before the Jan. 6 Committee and pronounced former President Trump and his allies a ‘clear and present danger’ to American constitutional democracy. As Luttig knows better than most, this historic phrase generates an extraordinary constitutional power of government to act — and a duty to do so. Luttig’s verdict should be understood as a plea for Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland to proceed toward charging Trump with federal crimes that the public record now amply establishes. Only then will this nation be able to move forward from the ongoing insurrection.” L.A. Times

Elon Musk is not your friend. The Tesla chief executive-SpaceX founder-tech Renaissance man portrays himself as a truth-telling free-speech “absolutist” who wants to radically democratize everything from Twitter to space travel, but at his core the reality is much more boring: Musk is just another self-centered billionaire. Isaac Lozano, Opinion’s 2022 summer intern, writes: “Musk isn’t a savior; he’s, at heart, an elite whose core interests contradict those of the public. Like the great majority of the uber-wealthy class, he supports the kind of fiscal policies that undermine social equality, such as reducing social spending and gutting of estate taxes. But such policies are widely unpopular among Americans, both liberals and conservatives.” L.A. Times

These California congressmen betrayed voters on Jan. 6. Seven of California’s 11 Republican members of Congress voted on Jan. 6, 2021, against certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Six are running for reelection this November; The Times’ Editorial Board names them and urges voters to hold them accountable or risk further imperiling American democracy. Those representatives are Ken Calvert of Corona, Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita, Darrell Issa of Bonsall, Doug LaMalfa of Richvale, Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, and Jay Obernolte of Big Bear Lake. L.A. Times

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COVID-19 finally caught up with her. After more than two years of masking, distancing and hand washing, columnist Robin Abcarian says she hosted a graduation party, attended family dinners and, yes, let her guard down in taking precautions. That led to a recent COVID-19 diagnosis, a firsthand experience with the federal government’s “test to treat” program and a positive interaction with the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Abcarian: “My sore throat is gone, but seven days in, I’m still testing positive, which means I have to isolate for another three days. After that, even if I’m positive, the doctors tell me, I can leave the house. And when I do, you can bet I will be wearing a mask.” L.A. Times

For a place that makes the world’s finest pastrami sandwich, Langer’s always seems to be barely hanging on. Nicholas Goldberg notes that Jewish delis have faced headwinds for decades, and the venerable L.A. institution near MacArthur Park is no exception: “The sufferings of Jewish delis over the years have been legion, the challenges monumental: There’s the passing of the shtetl generation and its children. The assimilation of its grandchildren. The dispersal of the Jewish population from the cities to suburbs (and, in the case of Langer’s, from Westlake-MacArthur Park to the San Fernando Valley and the Westside). Rising rents. The climbing costs of ingredients. The tut-tutting of cardiologists everywhere, what with all the fat, carbohydrates and salt. More recently, the COVID closures. And now, a new burst of inflation. The price of a pastrami sandwich at Langer’s rose recently to $22, a number that even its owner, Norm Langer, concedes is meshuga. ‘Is half a pound of meat, two slices of rye bread and a pickle worth $22?’ he asks. ‘I don’t know. But I’ve got to make ends meet.’” L.A. Times

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