As pro-abortion activists took to the streets to protest the leaked Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last week, Justice Clarence Thomas stated that Americans should learn to accept outcomes they don’t want.
Speaking at a judicial conference on Friday, Thomas said that the public is “becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes” and moaned that Americans aren’t “living with the outcomes we don’t like.” He did not speak directly about the leaked opinion, but did refer to recent “unfortunate events.”
He went on to assert that the judicial system “can’t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want,” implying that those disquieted attitudes toward institutions “bod[e] ill for a free society.” Young people are especially guilty of disrespecting government institutions like courts, he said.
Thomas’s comments sparked ire among abortion rights supporters, who pointed out the glaring hypocrisy of telling people to simply live with decisions made by 9 unelected judges with lifetime appointments who are not subject to any oversight. As political commentators pointed out, Republican attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election are a prime example of people not being able to live with an outcome they don’t like — but Thomas has yet to condemn the anti-democratic campaign and coup attempt, perhaps because of his wife Ginni Thomas’s involvement in those events.
Others pointed out that the Supreme Court justice has been a staunch supporter of overturning previous court precedents and has spent decades trying to force the Supreme Court to be more conservative in its work. The Supreme Court is supposed to be impartial in political matters, but recent years have revealed the political motivations especially driving the right wing justices on the bench.
“The irony is so thick you wonder if it’s maybe a Clarence Thomas impersonator. Among other things, this is a guy who spent his lifetime trying to take a battering ram to all the Supreme Court major precedents,” said former U.S. attorney Harry Litman on MSNBC on Saturday.
In response to the comment that the Court is being “bullied,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California) wrote, “Justice Clarence Thomas is wrong, again. Governments are bullying [people] into having government-mandated pregnancies, under threat of jail. Multiple Supreme Court Justices lied during their confirmation process about their view of [Roe v. Wade] and stare decisis,” a legal term referring to adhering to precedent. “Those are the facts,” Lieu concluded.
As a survivor, I am thinking about how Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas are credibly accused of having violated and harassed women and are now the ones about to deny us our right to abortion care.
Abusers do not belong in public office. Period.
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) May 4, 2022
It’s unclear what exactly Thomas was referring to in regards to the Court being “bullied.” It’s concerning that he was potentially referring to pro-abortion protesters who surrounded the Supreme Court last week demanding that justices not overturn Roe. The First Amendment to the Constitution protects the right to free speech and protest, but Thomas apparently thinks that instutions shouldn’t be subjected to hearing the opinions of the public in this way. Public figures regularly face protests, often at their homes; over the weekend, pro-abortion demonstrators marched to Supreme Court Justice’s homes to voice their dissatisfaction with the Roe draft.
Though moderates and conservatives took issue with this form of protest, it is actually abortion clinics and patients who often face real threats from political opponents and are in far more danger than being “bullied,” as Lieu pointed out. Abortion clinics have begun doubling down on security tactics in order to combat an anticipated rise in attacks anti-abortionists; such figures have killed workers and bombed and set fire to clinics that provide abortions and other reproductive services.