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How Samuel Alito's hypocrisy is fueling the crisis at the Supreme Court

The justice reportedly told Ted Kennedy that he didn't plan on overturning Roe. So...that was a lie.

There are hypocrites in this world. There are people who lack self-awareness. And then there is Justice Samuel Alito, a category unto himself.

When he was a nominee to the high court, Democrats like the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, feared that Alito would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if confirmed. According to a new book, “Ted Kennedy: A Life,” Ailto told Kennedy in 2005 that he believed a constitutional right to privacy — which provided the foundation for Roe’s protection of abortion — was “settled.” He also tried to assure Kennedy by saying, “I am a believer in precedents.”

Alito similarly tried to minimize a memo he wrote in 1985 as a member of the Justice Department in which he voiced his opposition to Roe. Alito, according to the book, told Kennedy there was nothing to worry about — the memo was simply a way to try to impress his boss and get a promotion.

That doesn’t sound like someone who believes in precedent or that Roe was settled law.

Kennedy wasn’t buying what Alito was selling and voted against his confirmation. That was wise. After almost two decades on the court, Alito had finally obtained enough conservative colleagues to join his crusade to overturn Roe to allow him to author this June’s Dobbs decision. In doing so, he wrote that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.” That doesn’t sound like someone who believes in precedent or that Roe was settled law.

Just a day after the details of Kennedy and Alito’s meeting became public knowledge as details from the book were published, Alito spoke at the conservative Heritage Foundation where he touched on a number of topics, including the public backlash during the court’s most recent term. In response to a question about his draft opinion of the Dobbs decision leaking in early May, Alito said the breach of secrecy made him and his conservative colleagues “targets for assassination.”

Let’s begin by stating the obvious: No one should ever kill or try to kill a Supreme Court justice. That is not to say that we cannot critique Supreme Court justices or hold them to a higher standard. And someone who just wrote a judicial decision that allows states to fully ban abortions — quite literally putting the lives of thousands of women at risk each year — should be more circumspect about giving a speech that portrays himself as the victim.

Alito must know, as we all do by now, that the Dobbs decision means states can force a teenager who is raped to give birth. He must know that the Dobbs decision means states can force women who are carrying dead or dying fetuses to risk sepsis because doctors cannot perform procedures that would keep those women safe. Alito must know that the Dobbs decision means states can prevent cancer patients from obtaining abortions. Alito must know that his decision will disproportionately affect poor women and minorities. Alito must know children will be born to women who know they lack the resources to raise them.

But Alito and his colleagues seem to make decisions without regard to these consequences. Alito instead cherry-picked history and precedent to conclude that that women should no longer have a constitutionally protected right to abortion. In the process, Alito apparently broke his assurances to Kennedy, yet now clutches his pearls and plays the victim.

Alito misses the point if he thinks the crisis of legitimacy the Supreme Court faces is simply about people disagreeing with his rulings. The issue is his hypocrisy and willful ignorance of the harm his rulings produce.