The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

‘Dobbs’ and the Conservative Legal Movement – Gerald V. Bradley in National Catholic Register

by James Wilson Institute on December 7, 2021

James Wilson Institute’s Senior Scholar, Gerry Bradley, writes in the National Catholic Register about Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization and how if Roe is overturned, it would not necessarily mean the end of abortion or even the beginning of the end of it. 

Some excerpts from the piece:

“Although the conservative legal movement has done great good over the years, it now faces an existential crisis, and Meese knows it — thus the title of his essay in The Washington Post last week: “Did the conservative legal movement succeed? That all depends on whether the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade.”

“Meese wrote that the Court’s forthcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health will “determine” whether the “conservative legal project of the past 40 years, to restore neutral principles to constitutional interpretation, has been a success.”

“Meese worries that one (or more) of the six conservatives now on the Court will be sidetracked by the clamor of ‘special interests’ for their ‘preferred positions,’ gussied up as ‘noble end[s].’ He wrote those words before the Dobbs oral argument on Dec. 1. But he anticipated uncannily the shrill argument of the abortion business’ lawyer last week, that women’s bodily autonomy and not the lives of innocent persons, is the issue. This lawyer insisted, too, that women need abortion to be men’s equals.”

The Constitution is neither ‘silent’ nor ‘neutral’ about abortion. The Constitution guarantees to every human person the equal protection of the laws against being killed. Every human person begins at fertilization. That is not only true as a matter of biological fact and philosophical investigation. It is also the understanding of when people begin among those Americans who wrote that equality guarantee into our fundamental charter. 

Several friend-of-the-court briefs filed in Dobbs make precisely this point, most compellingly. It won’t carry the Court in Dobbs, although it should. And it won’t, due to the deepest failure of the conservative legal movement, which is its aversion to relying upon moral truth even where the Constitution’s faithful interpretation clearly requires it.

Read the full piece here.

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Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790