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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Conservatives are in control at the Supreme Court. Will they go too far?

Rain didn’t deter more than 10,000 people in Houston from voicing displeasure over the weekend with Texas’ effective ban on abortions after six weeks and with the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to stop the new law, the nation’s most restrictive, before it took effect last month. One representative sign read: “We did not endure a plague just to return to the dark ages.”

Counterparts in more than 500 cities, large and small, joined the Houston protesters to make clear how high the stakes are for the Supreme Court’s new term, which began Monday and is expected to be one of the most consequential in years. The justices will decide the fate of the right to abortion, as it considers a Mississippi case that seeks to overturn Roe v Wade. But the explosive lineup doesn’t end there: gun rights, church-state separation and the federal government’s state secrets doctrine are all also on the docket.

Most conservatives, of course, and especially those who oppose abortion rights, have cheered the prospect for a court term that finally sides squarely with outcomes that for the right have remained tantalizingly out of reach, despite having seen Republican presidents appoint far more members to the court than their Democratic counterparts. From Ronald Reagan’s time until now, GOP presidents have named 11 members of the court, including the elevation of William Rehnquist to chief justice, compared to just four during the 16 years Democrats have held the White House.

This is the year, predicts widely respected court-watcher Tom Goldstein, publisher of Scotusblog.com, that the conservative majority finally asserts itself in big, hot-button cases. “We’re going to look back at this as the year in which the conservatives really did fully take over the Supreme Court and American constitutional law.”

Robin Paoli, board chair of the nonprofit Houston Women March On, told us Monday that protesters were in the streets to sound the alarm about more than just the Texas GOP’s attack on abortion rights, an assault that now appears could be amplified by the Supreme Court this term. “The damage inflicted on Texas by current state officials is widespread, from vilifying immigrants and failing to fix the power grid to undermining our schools. Our Oct. 2 march focused on two specific dangers: attacks on our voting rights and on women’s health and bodily autonomy,” Paoli said. “There has never been a more important time to come together and act.”

In Washington, marchers aimed their ire directly at the nation’s high court and the president whose three appointments in four years so radically shifted its ideological center.

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