Catholic Law Professor J. Joel Alicea had an essay recently published in City Journal regarding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Mississippi’s prohibition on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy—for which oral arguments at United States Supreme Court were held on December 1, 2021. In the essay, Alicea discusses the impact that the decision could have on the fate of the conservative legal movement.
Date: December 5, 2021
By: J. Joel Alicea
Dobbs and the Fate of the Conservative Legal Movement
The conservative legal movement finds itself at its most precarious point since its inception in the early 1970s. That might sound implausible. The last four years saw the appointment of three Supreme Court justices, dozens of appellate judges, and nearly 200 district court judges—almost all coming from within the ranks of the conservative legal movement. Conservatives on the Supreme Court now (ostensibly) hold a 6–3 majority, making it, in all likelihood, the most conservative Court we will see in our lifetimes. It would thus be easy to conclude that the conservative legal movement is at its apogee.
But it is precisely the movement’s success that puts it in peril. After decades of laying intellectual groundwork, building institutions, and engaging in politics, legal conservatives are in a position to accomplish what they see as the revival of the rule of law. But with that success has come high expectations that the Supreme Court will deliver on the legal goals that have sustained the movement through many disappointments and false starts. Foremost of those goals: overruling Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion; and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed Roe’s “central holding.” More than any other Supreme Court decision, Roe is responsible for the emergence of the conservative legal movement. If there were only one reason that the movement has endured for decades, it would be to see Roe overturned.
To read the full essay, click here.