Pro-abortion protests: Is it right to gather at SCOTUS justices homes?

Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters

Fact Box

  • Abortion was legalized nationwide following the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions. Since then, there have been roughly 62 million US abortions.
  • On May 2, 2022, POLITICO released an initial 98-page draft written by Justice Samuel Alito noting the majority of the Supreme Court had voted down the Roe v. Wade decision with a statement, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences” However, the court ruling will not be finalized until the next two months. 
  • In response to the leaked draft, around 100 pro-abortion protesters gathered in front of the homes of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh on May 7, 2022. The protests followed a notice from a pro-abortion group, Ruth Sent Us, that revealed the home addresses of six conservative justices and called for peaceful protests. 
  • MarketWatch reported on various polls regarding Roe v. Wade. A January 2022 CNN poll found that 69% of Americans want to leave the ruling as is, while 30% want it overturned.

Andrew (Yes)

Recent protests outside the residences of Supreme Court justices are the just and logical thing to do given that the people who will be harmed by this potential overturn of landmark legislation have virtually no redress. Heavily gerrymandered voting districts have led to a situation where Republican presidents, despite losing the popular vote in multiple elections, have been able to force, through a super majority, ultra conservative activist judges onto the Supreme Court who will make decisions on cases that affect the nation. In this situation, there is little that ordinary citizens can do; their votes make little difference in districts that have been designed to give advantages to conservatives. Those who deny this charge need look no further than the current electoral map situation in Ohio, where the court has rejected a proposed electoral map as heavily gerrymandered multiple times, yet Republicans know if they simply run out the clock they will get their way through a loophole. With conservatives using such extreme tactics to ensure minority rule, it makes sense for those who don’t want to see Roe overturned, which is the majority of Americans, to use increasingly tough tactics.

It should also be noted that these protests have been peaceful thus far and have not seen any violence or threats made toward the justices or their families. These protestors are simply exercising their constitutional freedoms to assemble and speak their minds. This issue should take priority, as it will affect hundreds of thousands of women in America. It stands to reason that putting a reasonable amount of pressure on a few individuals to protect the rights of many is simply the right thing to do.

Curtice (No)

The leaked draft version of a Supreme Court decision that could potentially overturn Roe has heightened emotions across America. But while protesting the government is inherent to our First Amendment rights, intense displeasure does not justify protests targeting direct SCOTUS members’ personal residences. These protesters clearly want to sway the opinion of the concurring justices on the draft ruling with one sole purpose—intimidation. Justice Alito has already been moved to an undisclosed location, indicating he and his family fear for their safety. 

Though the White House quasi condemned the protests, Jen Psaki seemed to equivocate, saying they had not yet resulted in violence or vandalism and that “the reason people are protesting is because women across the country are worried about their fundamental rights.” In actuality, such protests are most likely illegal under federal statutes. 18 U.S.C 1507 states that protests “with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, or witness” are illegal and punishable by fine and/or jail. This can apply to protests occurring outside court buildings or residential protesting, which is particularly abhorrent and possibly illegal

Ironically, many protestors prefer suppressing speech, if it’s messages they oppose. Likewise, they don’t seem to understand that for 50 years the judicial branch has been permitted to supersede the authority of the legislature, which actually subverted our democracy. If Roe is overturned, this issue returns to the states, giving the people their voice again. Most importantly, SCOTUS is not supposed to be influenced by public consensus, mob rule, or polls. SCOTUS’ role is to interpret laws according to the Constitution. Doing so does not make conservative justices ‘activists’ or constitutional originalism ‘extreme.’ What is extreme is deriving a right that does not exist in the Constitution (abortion), whereas the right to life is explicitly listed.

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