Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Must Reads on Alito: Do Your Homework Peeps

Scott Lemieux just published this very informative analysis of Alito in the American Prospect.

This excerpt from the article should whet your appetite:

In addition, as the Supreme Court also argued forcefully, Alito’s acceptance of the legitimacy of the state’s interest seems to rest on quite reactionary assumptions about marriage. The spousal-notification provision, the plurality opinion correctly argued, “embodies a view of marriage consonant with the common-law status of married women, but repugnant to our present understanding of marriage and of the nature of the rights secured by the Constitution.” (As the opinion also pointed out, under Alito’s logic a law requiring a woman to notify her husband if she took emergency contraception, or if she drank alcohol during her pregnancy, would also presumably be upheld.) Alito’s reasoning sends bad signals not only about abortion but also about gender-equality jurisprudence more generally.

Despite their apparent popularity, regulations like spousal notification have dire real-world consequences. The laws currently in effect create considerable impediments, particularly for the most vulnerable minors. While under Casey states have generally permitted young women in abusive families to apply for a waiver from a judge, such bypasses tend to be enforced inconsistently, if at all.

Helena Silverstein, associate professor of government and law at Lafayette College, has studied the effects of parental-involvement laws on the ground in Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Tennessee. “In practice,” says Silverstein, “the implementation of the judicial-bypass option of those requirements is undermined by ignorance, bureaucratic hassles, and outright judicial defiance of the law. It is likely that exceptions to spousal-notification requirements would also provide inadequate protection and be enforced arbitrarily.”

While it's true that the purely numerical effect of these regulations on abortion rates is surprisingly modest, this is partly due to the Court’s striking down the spousal-notification provision, which sent a signal that the undue-burden standard would have some teeth (although states still have a lot of leeway to make abortions more difficult and expensive to obtain). Alito would give a green light to states to continue to expand these regulations, which disproportionately burden poor women and make exercising their rights a humiliating obstacle course -- without achieving the conservative goal of substantially reducing abortion rates.

After you finish up with Lemieux's article, head over to Bitch Ph.D and read her piece Samuel Alito: An Undue Burden on Us. She also has a great deal of good links to help you read up and make up your own mind on Alito.