Faith Adams of Bangor, Maine, kneels in prayer at a praise and worship service outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on June 27, days after the court ruled to overturn the Roe vs. Wade abortion case. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative member of the court and the one who wrote the ruling last month that struck down legalized abortion nationwide, defended the decision and slammed world leaders who opposed it in a keynote speech in Italy.
Alito was the one who penned the decision striking down Roe vs. Wade in a related Mississippi case on June 24, and was the author of the draft that leaked to the press in May that indicated the high court would overturn the 49-year-old landmark law.
In a keynote address in Rome that was put on by the University of Notre Dame Law School, the 72-year-old justice who was appointed to the seat by former President George W. Bush in 2006 defended the ruling and took aim at critics, including Britain’s Prince Harry and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The 35-minute speech at the religious liberty summit last week featured Alito’s first public remarks since the highly controversial abortion ruling last month.
Alito criticized Johnson for denouncing the ruling as a “big step backwards” and seemed to imply that the leader’s opinion on the matter had something to do with his resignation this month.
“I had the honor this term of writing I think the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law,” Alito said at the summit, which was help on July 21.
“One of these was former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but he paid the price.”
At times, the bearded Alito turned to sarcasm in his commentary — especially in his remarks about Prince Harry, who warned in a speech at United Nations headquarters in New York City this month of “the rolling back of constitutional rights here in the U.S.,” which he said contributed to “a painful year in a painful decade.”
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle moved to California a couple years ago after resigning from their royal duties.
“What really wounded me, what really wounded me,” Alito said sarcastically, “was when the Duke of Sussex addressed the United Nations and seemed to compare the decision … with the Russian attack on Ukraine.
“Despite this temptation I am not going to talk about cases from other countries.”
Throughout much of the speech, the Catholic Alito championed religious rights and warned about the decline of faith in America, where he said “hostility to religion” is becoming more evident.
“The problem that looms is not just the indifference to religion, it’s not just ignorance about religion,” he said. “There’s also growing hostility to religion, or at least the traditional religious beliefs that are contrary to the new moral code that is ascendant in some sectors.”
Alito and other conservative members of the Supreme Court were heavily criticized at the end of their term last month for multiple highly divisive rulings, such as the abortion decision and others that struck down a gun safety law in New York and gutted the federal government’s authority to restrict climate-changing greenhouse carbon emissions.
The rulings, plus another that gave teachers the right to pray on school grounds, were widely seen as major victories for conservatives and religious rights supporters.
The abortion decision, however, touched off an intense wave of activism and efforts by state and federal lawmakers to protect reproductive healthcare. Democratic lawmakers in Congress are attempting to codify legalized abortion into federal law, but have little chance of succeeding because they have only a razor thin majority in the Senate.
President Joe Biden has also taken executive actions to protect abortion and contraception, and some federal lawmakers and advocates are pushing to expand the Supreme Court to even out its ideological makeup.
Despite the tense philosophical divide among the court’s three progressive and six conservative justices, at least one member from each side said relations remained cordial and respectful.
“We like each other. We really do,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett said this week at the Reagan Institute’s Summit on Education, where she was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a rare public appearance.
“As is often joked, this is like a marriage. We have life tenure and we get along,” Barrett, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2020, said according to The New York Times. “You’re not going to rupture relationships with people you’re going to be spending your career with.”
“Fundamentally, I understand they’re good people,” Sotomayor, who was appointed to her seat by President Barack Obama, said according to the Times.
“For me, democracy means an informed group of people, because without being informed, you really can’t know how to shape, how to live with others.”
Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade, ending federal abortion rights