Supreme Court's Decision on Roe v. Wade is a Triumph for Democracy | Opinion

We've all heard the claim that reversing Roe v. Wade would constitute a fundamental threat to our democracy. That claim and the voices repeating it are going to get louder, more vehement, and more violent in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

And that claim is utterly false. In fact, what has just transpired is far more of a triumph for democracy than for the pro-life cause. It is fair to say that the decision may be the most important victory for the preservation of the democratic process the Supreme Court has ever delivered.

How so?

We've all heard the ruling in Roe summarized like this: "The Supreme Court legalized abortion." In fact, in the last month or so, The New York Times, National Public Radio, and many other major news sources used this phrasing to describe the Court's history.

Such phrasing describes a legislative process. And as we all should know, Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution gives all federal legislative authority to Congress. Courts are not supposed to "legalize" anything. That's the job of legislatures.

Justice Samuel Alito's thoroughly researched opinion makes it abundantly clear that Roe was an act of raw judicial power—which simply means that the Supreme Court made a policy decision on abortion rather than duly applying the language and meaning of the Constitution.

Prior to Roe, every state placed at least some limitations on abortion. And there is absolutely no historical evidence indicating that the language of the Constitution—particularly the 14th Amendment—was meant to be interpreted to find a constitutional right to abortion.

Anti-abortion protest Supreme Court
Anti-abortion campaigners celebrate near the US Supreme Court in the streets of Washington, DC, on June 24, 2022. Olivier Douliery / AFP/Getty Images

The Constitution is not supposed to be malleable—to be refashioned into any shape preferred by a majority of unelected justices. If it is to be changed, such changes should come through the legislative process of proposing and ratifying written amendments.

Far too often, we focus on whether we like the outcome of a decision regardless of how it is reached. With limited exceptions, presidents, governors, bureaucrats, and judges are not clothed with the authority to make laws for us. Lawmaking belongs to Congress and the state legislatures. Even if we like a fiat imposed by a governor, for example, we should be very concerned that such an act is indistinguishable from that of a dictator. In a democratic republic, laws must come from legislatures.

The reason this is important is demonstrated by the nearly 50 years of political turmoil engendered by the decision in Roe. If the people don't like laws enacted by certain legislators, it is comparatively easy to "vote the rascals out" and achieve the desired change of course in policy. Overturning Roe, by contrast, was viewed as nearly impossible.

In Dobbs, the Supreme Court indicated that there has never been a national consensus on abortion—only shifting and nuanced views that cover a broad range. States have historically created a variety of laws on this subject, although until Roe not one opted for the total permissiveness the decision imposed nationally via judicial fiat. When we follow the rules of democracy, the people can form the law according to their own views. The Dobbs decision returns the question of abortion to the democratic process. Going forward, the laws on abortion in your state will reflect the views of the majority of the voters in your state. That is the essence of democracy.

And we cannot forget that our country was founded on the principle that the greatest guarantor of freedom was the process of constitutional self-government. Political power must remain in the hands of the people for freedom to flourish.

George Washington was trusted and beloved by his own generation for many reasons, but the highest esteem accompanied his decision to walk away voluntarily from power. After winning the war, he went back to farming rather than declaring himself to be the ruler. And having served two terms as president, he walked away again, preserving the view that power is limited.

It is rare to see any governmental entity limit its own power. But this is one of those rare moments that should be cherished by all who love freedom and democracy. The Supreme Court acknowledged that it improperly seized the power of the people and their legislatures half a century ago. Now it has relinquished that power and given it back to the people. That's a marvel worth celebrating.

Michael P. Farris is president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal), whose attorneys served on the Mississippi legal team defending the state's pro-life law at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.