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The Real Tragedy of Samuel Alito’s Logic

Samuel Alito
Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

The promise of the United States has been our commitment to liberty and justice for all. The practice of the United States, of course, has been our commitment to liberty and justice for some. And yet that gap between practice and promise has been historically framed as our opportunity to expand liberty and justice. The narrative we’ve inherited about America, or at least told ourselves about our country, is largely one where the chasm is continually closing—where we become more inclusive, more accepting, more welcoming. Since the leaked Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade became public, I have found myself in a state of slowly escalating rage at this stark reminder that we are capable of regression as much as progress, and that rights given can also be taken away. The moral arc of the universe can bend toward injustice if we don’t continually work to direct it ourselves. 

Our collective understanding about abortion, largely filtered through the distortion of polarized media, often oversimplifies an obviously complex subject. Pew Research recently published the results of a comprehensive survey of Americans’ views of abortion, and it’s nuanced. Support for abortion depends on factors like the duration of a pregnancy before termination, personal health risks, and more. The full report is worth your time, but this line really stood out to me: Most people (72 percent) say that this statement—“the decision about whether to have an abortion should belong solely to the pregnant woman”—describes their views “at least somewhat well.” Unsurprisingly, a nation obsessed with individual freedom generally thinks that the decision about whether to go through with a pregnancy should be decided by the person who is pregnant.