Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas hinted at his willingness to overturn the infamous abortion ruling Roe v. Wade on Monday in an opinion about a gun rights case.
Reuters reports the conservative justice questioned the high court’s tendencies to lean on precedent for its decisions.
“When faced with a demonstrably erroneous precedent, my rule is simple: We should not follow it,” Thomas wrote in his decision Monday.
He said the court should not “elevate” court precedent over the U.S. Constitution, and some precedents are “demonstrably erroneous.” At one point in his decision, he mentioned the abortion case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 case, which upheld Roe, says that states cannot place an undue burden on women’s access to abortion. Thomas dissented in the case.
Here’s more from the report:
The Thomas opinion focused on “stare decisis,” a Latin term referring to the legal principle that U.S. courts should not overturn precedents without a special reason.
While stare decisis (pronounced STAR-ay deh-SY-sis) has no formal parameters, justices deciding whether to uphold precedents often look at such factors as whether they work, enhance stability in the law, are part of the national fabric or promote reliance interests, such as in contract cases. …
Thomas said the court should “restore” its jurisprudence relating to precedents to ensure it exercises “mere judgment” and focuses on the “correct, original meaning” of laws it interprets.
“In our constitutional structure, our rule of upholding the law’s original meaning is reason enough to correct course,” Thomas wrote.
Speculation is growing about whether the high court will hear an abortion case in the future and overturn Roe v. Wade. The justices recently refused to hear an Indiana case involving a law that protects unborn babies from discriminatory abortions based on their race, sex or a disability. Though the ruling was disappointing, the Supreme Court did uphold a second part of the law that requires abortion facilities to cremate or bury aborted babies.
Thomas wrote an opinion urging the court to consider laws that protect unborn babies from eugenics.
“… this law and other laws like it promote a State’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics,” he wrote. “Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever. Having created the constitutional right to an abortion, this Court is dutybound to address its scope.”
Thomas said he believes the court needs to “percolate” on the abortion issue more before hearing a major abortion case.