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Mass. Sen. Markey says Democrats will respond to Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe

A white man in a suit smiles in front of a wall with framed photos on it
Josh Landes

After months of speculation, the Supreme Court definitively overturned national abortion access rights with Friday’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision. A 6-3 vote from the majority conservative court ended a half century of legal precedence, and indicated that more civil liberties could be displaced in decisions to come. Democrats assailed the ruling, and say

It will be up to legislatures to preserve rights once protected by the country’s highest court. WAMC spoke with Massachusetts U.S. Senator Ed Markey Friday:

MARKEY: A stolen Supreme Court majority has stolen our rights. These illegitimate, far right justices have set justice back decades. They are extremists. They don't reflect the views of a majority of Americans, and the overturning of Roe vs. Wade is an egregious and overtly political act that jeopardizes the health, the safety, and the freedom of millions of Americans.

WAMC: Now, as in the past, you've talked about a reaction to this being the Senate moving to expand to the court and add more justices to the bench. But is this any different from when we last spoke about this, Senator Markey? Is there still- Is the filibuster still likely going to be enough of a defense from the right to prevent that from happening?

We now have to repeal the filibuster. And we need to pass the Women's Health and Protection Act and codify Roe versus Wade into law. But we also have to expand the Supreme Court and bring balance to the bench and restore its legitimacy in the eyes of the American people. This is the new political agenda for our country, as of this morning, when the Supreme Court issued their ruling.

I have to ask you- It certainly seems like this is yet another in a long string of wins for the American Right and the conservative political project. Can you speak a little bit to why it seems so evident that the conservative political movement seems to be racking up a series of wins while the American Left or the Democratic party seems to be struggling to respond over the last several years?

Well, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell stole two Supreme Court seats. They violated all of the traditions of our country, which is why it is now imperative for the Democrats to expand the Supreme Court in order to reclaim the stolen seats and restore balance in our country, restore respect for precedent, restore respect for the law. That which happened today has eviscerated all of those traditions in one single decision.

Do you anticipate your party making any of those actions before the midterms on a legislative level or are we going to hear another round of “vote blue no matter” who coming into the elections?

I believe there's going to be a rising call for expansion of the Supreme Court. They made, at the Supreme Court, a terrible decision on gun safety yesterday. They made a terrible decision today on abortion rights. And they're going to continue to make these decisions on environmental laws, on same sex marriage laws, each and every one of them eviscerating precedents. It's going to lead to an eruption of action across our country in the elections of this year that will lead to a majority that can make it possible for us to expand the Supreme Court and shut down this illegitimate far right, Republican Supreme Court that is acting only because they stole two Supreme Court seats. And now they're committed to stealing justice on issue after issue away from the most vulnerable in our society.

Now on paper, looking at the Democrats, you have the House, the Senate, and the White House. Is there anything with that at least theoretical amount of amassed power that can be translated into some kind of defense for the people left exposed by this or some kind of recourse for this slate of SCOTUS decisions? Is there anything that the Democrats can substantively do to respond to any of this in the short term?

In the short term, we need to have the votes to codify Roe vs. Wade, to codify a woman's right to contraception, to codify same sex marriage protections, to codify environmental laws, because they're all coming under assault. And even if we're unsuccessful in the short run, we're going to build a political movement that is going to be like a wave that's going to sweep over this country in November of 2022. The Republican far right majority is now going to have an equal and opposite reaction from all of those that want to be protected by all of those laws that have been put on the books for women, for the environment, for same sex marriage, for health care over two generations.

Do you have a message for Democratic voters who might be aghast today on what seems like another big step backwards for the kind of policies that Democrats have traditionally supported with another move from a conservative political element despite Democrats being ostensibly in power?

My answer to Democrats and independents is that they can't agonize, they have to organize. And I urge Americans all across the country to support access to abortion for those who will be most harmed by this ruling, Americans living in states that have been hijacked by far right lawmakers and governors. We have to volunteer, donate, take part in efforts to defend abortion, abortion funds, independent clinics, providers, and groups fighting for reproductive freedom looking for your help at this moment. That is my message to everyone across this country.

In the decision that has overturned Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas refers to possible future actions towards other civil liberties like gay marriage, things of that nature. Is there anything that the Democratic Party can do now, with this next what seems like a very clear conservative objective being floated out there? Is there anything that the party can do in advance, knowing that that's being floated?

It is incumbent upon the American people to make it very clear that what happened today is an absolute abomination that will be fought by the overwhelming majority of the American people. Two thirds of Americans support Roe vs. Wade. And the same is true for same sex marriage, for environmental protections, for gun safety laws. I believe that what the Supreme Court is in the process of doing, by unraveling historic protections, is going to unleash a wave of political reaction from moderates all across our country who are going to going to demand a restoration of balance in our American society. I don't think the Supreme Court cares that they're going to unleash this counter revolution of activists who are going to demand that there be a restoration of these legal protections. But that is what they have done at the Supreme Court by rendering this decision today.

I just want to push back on that for a minute, because you're talking a lot about, like, activists and moderates and voters out there. But, you know, you've been in office for a tremendous amount of time, and the party that you are a part of, again, theoretically possesses power now. So, you know, I guess to go back to my earlier question- What can a group that, again, has control of the House, Senate, and White House, what can that they do right now, before a midterms that that many expected might flop the other direction? Is there anything you can do to enshrine those protections now, given that you already have the power that we're talking about?

Well, we need to act now to pass the Women's Health Protection Act and codify abortion rights into law and expand the court so that the American people don't continue to face this type of assault on the fundamental rights. But abortion rights have now been catapulted to the top of the political agenda in 2022. And I believe that's going to become very clear when voters flood to the polls in support of Democrats this November.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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