Readers can find plenty of media recaps of yesterday’s Supreme Court argument over Texas abortion restrictions, but this one from Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick is one to catch, lauding as it does the performance of the women on the court who refused to be silenced. (Included in this group is Justice Stephen Breyer, whom Lithwick calls “one of history’s great feminists.”)
Here’s the opener:
On one side, you have a group of testy male justices needling a female lawyer for Texas clinics about whether it was even appropriate for them to hear this appeal. On the other, you’ve got four absolutely smoking hot feminists pounding on Texas’ solicitor general for passing abortion regulations that have no plausible health purpose and also seem pretty stupid.
It felt as if, for the first time in history, the gender playing field at the high court was finally leveled, and as a consequence the court’s female justices were emboldened to just ignore the rules. Time limits were flouted to such a degree that Chief Justice John Roberts pretty much gave up enforcing them. I counted two instances in which Roberts tried to get advocates to wrap up as Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor simply blew past him with more questions. There was something wonderful and symbolic about Roberts losing almost complete control over the court’s indignant women, who are just not inclined to play nice anymore.
Lithwick then goes on to detail the several exchanges between the justices and attorneys in the case revealing the absurd premises upon which the state’s “targeted regulations against abortion providers,” or TRAP laws, were ostensibly built.
Here’s Justice Sonia Sotomayor, incredulous when she learns that with a pill-induced abortion, the patient needs to be in the clinic.
“I’m sorry. What? She has to come back two separate days to take them? … When she could take it at home, it’s now she has to travel 200 miles or pay for a hotel to get those two days of treatment?”
The absence of Justice Antonin Scalia (“three times larger in his absence than even his outsize presence used to be”) plays a part in this takedown, Lithwick notes, leaving a void which his remaining conservative colleagues just seem incapable of filling, with questions amounting to what he would have called “weak applesauce.”
And projecting out, she closes by wondering if his ultimate successor would add any more to the tempest that the women on the court whipped up yesterday.
If the case is sent back to Texas on remand, we will play this out again in a few years with nine justices. But it’s hard to imagine President Obama conjuring up, from even the darkest, most devious underground lab, a new justice who would be half as fierce as the four-car train of whoop ass we saw today.