The Abortion Ruling: "The Legal Landscape Has Changed"

Lawyer Andrew Cohen analyzes legal affairs for CBS News and
I suspect that a great many people who will be forming opinions in the next few hours and days about the United States Supreme Court's landmark abortion ruling will not spend the time necessary to read through and truly understand both the import of the decision and the language and rationale employed by the Justices in reaching it. Both are truly extraordinary.

Not only has abortion law in this country taken a sudden and sharp turn to the right but the majority opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy (writing for five) and the dissenting opinion by Justice Ruth B. Ginsburg (writing for four) presage a pitched battle going forward on this topic. Forget all the happy talk about the new Chief Justice, John J. Roberts, Jr., bringing peace and karma to the High Court. Just read the Ginsburg dissent and you'll know why that's no longer an option.

Indeed, it is no coincidence that Ginsburg, the lone remaining woman on the Court, would have been chosen to write the dissent on behalf of three of her colleagues. When you read her analysis—an "alarming" decision, she writes-- you can almost hear her fury as she describes what she perceives to be the majority's warped reliance upon "ancient notions" of women's rights that include the "antiabortion shibboleth" that "women who have abortions come to regret them."

It also is no coincidence that Wednesday's ruling played out as it did only after the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, retired and was replaced by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. Alito voted with the Court's majority today. O'Connor almost certainly would not have done so—and, in fact, did not do so in 2000 when a similar Congressional effort to ban the so-called "partial birth" abortion procedure failed to get five votes.

Do yourself and everyone else a favor. Read the ruling, carefully and thoroughly, before you grab hold strongly of your opinion of it. There is both more in it that meets the eye and less; more poetry than you'd expect and certainly more emotion than we need. No matter which side of the roiling debate you find yourself on, surely we all should be able to agree that after today the whole legal landscape on abortion has changed.