Law & Principles

Court defied threats, preserved rule of law

July 11, 2022

Jonathan Small

Many pro-life Oklahomans are celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and leave abortion regulation to the states.

But all Oklahomans should celebrate the fact that the court did not allow pressure tactics to impact their ruling. If the justices had done otherwise, it would push our nation down a path where no one can feel secure in their constitutional rights.

There’s no denying the justices faced unprecedented attacks from outside groups that included the threat of violence and assassination.

Since a draft of the court’s abortion ruling was released earlier this year, the justices have been targeted by protesters and one man was arrested for a planned assassination attempt on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

That alone represents an indefensible attack on the legitimacy of our court system, but things were even worse.

Despite the assassination effort, and the fact that justices’ home addresses had been publicized, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stalled passage of legislation to provide security for the justices and their families (even though the Senate passed it unanimously). And her delay continued even after the foiled attempt on Kavanaugh’s life.

That means members of the U.S. Supreme Court had to worry not only about their own personal safety, but the safety of their family members, amidst a pressure campaign to vote to uphold Roe regardless of what justices believed was constitutional.

In too many instances, members of the legislative branch added rhetorical fuel to the pro-violence fire.

In 2020, the Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, specifically addressed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, declaring, “You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Schumer later tried to walk back his words, but they were widely understood as a tacit endorsement of violence if the court overturned Roe.

Following the ruling, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., appeared to endorse insurrection, declaring, “The hell with the Supreme Court. We will defy them.”

Amidst such rhetoric, it’s not shocking a group called Jane’s Revenge is now credited with firebombing pregnancy centers and similar acts of domestic terrorism, or that the Arizona state Capitol was the scene of a riot by pro-abortion activists.

But the justices did not yield to threats or intimidation. They stayed the course. Had they done otherwise, mob rule would replace the rule of law and no one’s life or liberty would be truly protected—including those disappointed by the court’s abortion ruling.

By overturning Roe, U.S. Supreme Court justices took a strong stance against judicial overreach. But they also refused to allow their rulings to be influenced by outside pressure tactics. In the years ahead, that last fact may be just as consequential as the former.