Editorial: A republic’s fate is in the hands of voters

  • Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh AP

Published: 7/15/2018 12:05:11 AM

This year marks the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman’s right to have an abortion. President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, an opponent of abortion rights who has publicly called the famous 1973 decision granting reproductive freedom to women wrongly decided, might, and we emphasize the word “might,” lead to the reversal of that historic decision.

Many factors could come into play. Among them are, to the extent it exists, the respect of the high court’s justices for stare decisis or precedent. Roe v. Wade has been the law for as long as most women of reproductive age have been alive. The American public, by a large majority, supports not abortion but the right of a woman to make that choice. Roe is settled law.

The concern of individual justices for the court’s reputation as an apolitical arbiter of justice will be a factor. The court’s reputation has yet to recover from the nakedly partisan 5-4 ruling that stopped the ballot counting and made George W. Bush president. Overturning Roe would signal that, once again, political power trumps precedent.

We won’t hazard a guess as to the odds of a Roe v. Wade reversal but if it happens, barring the nuclear option of a federal ban on abortions, the issue will become a matter for states to decide. If it does, we know this: People who cannot make choices for themselves cannot be governed by New Hampshire’s vaunted “Live Free or Die” motto. Rarely can personal freedom be more at stake than when a woman faces the decision of whether to terminate a pregnancy or bear, against her wishes or at risk to her health, a child.

Kavanaugh is qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. His almost certain confirmation will solidify conservative control of the court for what could be a generation or more. That means the future of reproductive choice for New Hampshire women could depend on the outcome of this November’s election. If the Supreme Court does permit states to severely limit or outlaw abortion, the 424 members of New Hampshire’s Legislature will set the state’s course. Every seat in the House and Senate is up for grabs in November.

We agree with those who’ve called the coming election one of the most consequential in decades. The current Congress lacks the will to serve as a check on a childish, impulsive president whose autocratic actions threaten democracy and America’s role in the world. This time around, at the state and local level, it will not be enough just to vote.

Preserving personal freedom and participating fully in democracy means working for the candidates of one’s choice, contributing to campaigns and, for some, running for office.

Benjamin Franklin, when asked upon leaving the 1787 convention that produced the nation’s Constitution what kind of government had been established, a monarchy or a democracy, replied, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

It’s time for everyone to do their part to preserve that republic.

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