CHRIS POWELL: Not all constitutional rights are secure in Connecticut

Published on Friday, 10 September 2021 21:16
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Responding to the new law in Texas sharply restricting abortion, Connecticut Democratic State Chair Nancy DiNardo last week tried to rile up the party's base. "Connecticut," she said, "will never allow the activist Supreme Court to strip away reproductive rights from the women of our state."

The Texas law is bizarre, if strategically formulated. Its enforcement is assigned to civil lawsuits brought by private citizens against abortion providers and facilitators. Victorious plaintiffs can claim a $10,000 bounty from each defendant. On procedural grounds the Supreme Court has declined early intervention against the law, prompting suspicion that the court's new conservative majority may plan to discard the court's governing precedent on abortion, the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

There's nothing new to be said about abortion itself. But its politics will always produce new material – as DiNardo did last week. For a Supreme Court that discarded Roe and returned abortion law to the states would be no more "activist" than the Supreme Court that issued Roe and took the issue away from the states, where it had rested since the country's founding.

Even liberal legal experts – including the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – have acknowledged that quite apart from whatever abortion policy should be, Roe was legally unsound or at best a big stretch. That is, Roe was the product of an "activist" Supreme Court.

DiNardo's premise and objective are hysteria. For the Supreme Court will not "strip away reproductive rights from the women of our state," because the court has no power to do so. The court's power here is only to decide whether abortion is a federal constitutional right, a right in every state.

Additionally, Connecticut long has had a permissive abortion law and public opinion here seems unlikely ever to change the law much, though most state residents probably would favor requiring the approval of parents or guardians for abortions for minors.

Last week DiNardo and all other leading Democrats in Connecticut ignored a chance to defend a constitutional right far more established than abortion. While neither the federal nor state constitution mention abortion, both guarantee the right to gun ownership. Even more explicit than the federal constitution's Second Amendment, Connecticut's Constitution says: "Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state."

A gun-rights group, the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, brought a federal lawsuit against the police chiefs of Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, and Waterbury for refusing to process applications for municipal gun permits, without which people cannot get state permits. The lawsuit details how applicants in the cities have been stalled for many months, even indefinitely.

The cities didn't deny their obstruction of this constitutional right. New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker essentially admitted it, noting the frequent gun crime in his city as if that nullifies a constitutional right. New Haven's acting police chief, Renee Dominguez, dishonestly blamed the stalling on the virus epidemic.

Mayor Elicker was demagogic. "My priorities are keeping our residents safe, not profiteering for gun retailers and manufacturers," the mayor said.

But the cities are not being sued by gun retailers and manufacturers but by their own residents. Some may have noticed the social disintegration all around them and government's causing it. These residents may think they should protect themselves because the government won't.

Connecticut's political establishment considers abortion a good right and gun ownership a bad one. To the political establishment, that makes the constitutions themselves dispensable.

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EXPOSE HIDDEN COSTS: Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is urging the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to reduce Eversource Energy's electricity rates. Maybe that should be done but only after determining and publicizing how much electric bills are hiding the costs of state government social policy.

If only state government had an agency to audit its own costs comprehensively. The state auditors don't do that. Yes, electric rates in Connecticut are nearly the highest in the country, but so are Connecticut's taxes, and state residents pay far more for government than electricity.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Friday, 10 September 2021 21:16. Updated: Friday, 10 September 2021 21:19.