Five Massachusetts Politicians Who Helped Overturn Roe v. Wade

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The U.S. Supreme Court did something great, and some Massachusetts politicians played a factor in making it happen –whether they wanted to or not. 

The Supreme Court finally overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, sending abortion law back to the states. 

While former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) deserve much of the credit for making it happen, a lot of other people helped make it possible. That even includes some politicians from Massachusetts.

Here is a look at five Massachusetts politicians who helped make this excellent ruling possible:


1.  Michael Dukakis

This is a prime example of the domino effect.

Had the former Democratic governor of Massachusetts not done a photo-op in a tank and given a weak answer on capital punishment in the 1988 presidential election, Roe v. Wade may still be the law of the land.

Dukakis held a 17-point lead over Republican George H.W. Bush in July 1988, before he made those two embarrassing blunders. He ended up losing the popular vote by eight points, and won only nine states. 

Dukakis’s stumbles got George H.W. Bush elected, who flipped a key Supreme Court seat. He replaced liberal Thurgood Marshall with a conservative Clarence Thomas, who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade last Friday.

Bush also appointed pro-Roe David Souter, who helped delay the demise of Roe for 30 years, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say that Dukakis surely would have appointed two pro-Roe justices.


2.  John F. Kennedy

Kennedy was tragically assassinated exactly nine years two months before the Roe v. Wade decision was issued by the Supreme Court, but he had an impact on it.

The Irish Catholic president got two Supreme Court justices confirmed in the less than three years he was president. One was still on the court at the time of the Roe decision:  Byron White, who was among two justices in the minority on Roe. (Along with William Rehnquist.)

White wrote the dissenting opinion in Roe. White also voted against the majority in the pro-abortion decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey 19 years later.

White, who retired in 1993 and died in 2002, left a roadmap for jettisoning Roe, laying out a compelling legal argument against it in his 1973 dissent:


… I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers [410 U.S. 179, 222] and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. The upshot is that the people and the legislatures of the 50 States are constitutionally disentitled to weigh the relative importance of the continued existence and development of the fetus, on the one hand, against a spectrum of possible impacts on the mother, on the other hand. As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but in my view its judgment is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court. 

The Court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life that she carries. Whether or not I might agree with that marshaling of values, I can in no event join the Court’s judgment because I find no constitutional warrant for imposing such an order of priorities on the people and legislatures of the States. In a sensitive area such as this, involving as it does issues over which reasonable men may easily and heatedly differ, I cannot accept the Court’s exercise of its clear power of choice by interposing a constitutional barrier to state efforts to protect human life and by investing mothers and doctors with the constitutionally protected right to exterminate it. This issue, for the most part, should be left with the people and to the political processes the people have devised to govern their affairs.

It’s hard to imagine a modern Democratic president appointing a Supreme Court justice who says anything close to that.


3.  Mitt Romney

Say what you will about Romney — and we’ve said plenty — he actually did something good.

Romney voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in October 2020 following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a left-wing member of the court. Barrett was confirmed 52-48 with every Republican except Susan Collins (R-Maine) voting to confirm her.

I have no idea whether or not Romney is actually pro-life. He said he supported legal abortion when he ran for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts in 1994 and governor in 2002. That was a mostly abortion-friendly electorate. He said he was pro-life when he ran for president in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries. That was a mostly pro-life electorate.

Now …?

But to his credit, at least he voted to confirm Barrett.


4.  Jill Stein

Jill Stein is at least arguably a reason Donald Trump was elected president in 2016; if so, then she might be my favorite Massachusetts politician. 

The left-of-center former Lexington Town Meeting member has had a few notable political campaigns. She was the Green-Rainbow Party nominee for governor in 2002. However, she wasn’t a spoiler; Romney won by 4.8 percentage points over the Democrat, while Stein got only 3.4 percent of the vote.

Stein was also the Green Party nominee for president in 2012; but she got only 0.36 percent of the vote, and her tally wasn’t enough to help Romney in any state.

But did she help Trump win in 2016?

It’s possible.

Stein is a left-wing environmentalist. She siphoned off votes from angry liberals who may have otherwise voted for Hillary Clinton. 

Clinton wrote a book of excuses for her 2016 presidential election loss called What Happened? and in it, one of her excuses was that Stein cost her the election.

Clinton said that Stein, who received about 1 percent of the vote nationwide in 2016, may have been a spoiler in key swing states won by Trump.

“So in each state, there were more than enough Stein voters to swing the result, just like Ralph Nader did in Florida and New Hampshire in 2000,” Clinton wrote.

Trump made the Supreme Court great, so if Clinton is right, then Stein did a great service for the country. Trump added three effectively pro-life justices to the court:  Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Both Kavanaugh and Barrett replaced pro-Roe justices:  Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. respectively. 


5.  John Kerry

There’s not a whole lot of good things we can say about George W. Bush, but at least he wasn’t John Forbes Kerry.

The best thing Kerry did for the pro-life cause was lose the 2004 presidential election. And Kerry’s stance on social issues helped bring his richly deserved loss about.

Back in those days, Kerry was against banning same-sex marriage before he was against allowing same-sex marriage. (This is like seven years before he was for same-sex marriage.)

W. was just against same-sex marriage.

Advantage:  W., especially in places like Ohio. Voters in Ohio went 61 percent to 39 percent against same-sex marriage via referendum; Bush won the state 50.8 percent to 48.7 percent.

Nationwide, Bush won the Electoral College, of course, but he also won the popular vote.

Bush’s second term improved the Supreme Court. He added Samuel Alito to the court, an originalist anti-Roe justice who replaced the terrible Sandra Day O’Connor (nominated by Ronald Reagan). O’Connor was on the wrong side of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. And Bush replaced  William Rehnquist, who was on the right side of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, with another justice, John Roberts, who is …

Well, he didn’t vote for Roe, anyway.

Kerry surely would have nominated two pro-Roe justices.

Thanks, J.F.K., for losing. It was your finest hour.


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