The debate over abortion is fundamentally a debate about human life itself. So, it’s no surprise that people on either side of the issue often have strong emotions underlying their positions. But that’s no excuse for letting passion override their better judgment, which is exactly what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and several other members of Congress are doing in the aftermath of a federal judge’s controversial ruling on abortion medication.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk issued a ruling that suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s approval for the commonly used abortion medication mifepristone. He ruled that the FDA exceeded its legal authority, and he second-guessed its conclusions about the drug’s safety. This decision has triggered tremendous backlash from Democratic officials and liberal media outlets alike (and, it’s worth noting, some substantive criticism even from right-leaning legal scholars).
That was predictable. But what did come as a surprise is just how far some Democrats took their backlash.
“President Biden can and must ignore this ruling and keep mifepristone on the market and accessible for every woman in America,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in response to the ruling.
This devastating ruling has no basis in law and will ban the most common method of abortion in EVERY single state.
President Biden can and must ignore this ruling and keep mifepristone on the market and accessible for every woman in America. https://t.co/g5fyYI4zkr
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) April 7, 2023
“I believe that the Biden administration should ignore this ruling,” Ocasio-Cortez similarly said on CNN. “The interesting thing when it comes to a ruling is that it relies on enforcement. It is up to the Biden administration to choose whether or not to enforce such a ruling.”
Surprisingly, even one Republican, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), seemed to agree with this position when asked about it on CNN.
Republican @NancyMace says she believes the FDA should ignore the Texas judge’s ruling. “This is an FDA approved drug. Whether you agree with its usage or not, that's not your decision. That is the FDA’s decision.” pic.twitter.com/wGJBunurcL
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) April 10, 2023
That’s a shame, because the path outlined by Ocasio-Cortez and company here is deeply short-sighted and irresponsible.
The proper response to a court decision you disagree with is to appeal it. In fact, the judge actually gave the FDA a week before his ruling took effect so it could file for an appeal (and likely get his ruling put on pause) if it so wished. If the decision is really as lawless and unscientific as Democrats are claiming, they should easily win out in appeals court or, if that fails, at the Supreme Court. But for the Biden administration to break with precedent and openly defy the courts would cause nothing short of a constitutional crisis.
You see, Ocasio-Cortez is actually not wrong when she says the judicial branch lacks an enforcement mechanism. The Supreme Court has no army or police force it can send to force a governor or president to abide by its rulings.
That’s right: The judicial branch’s ability to serve as a check on the other branches of government is actually fundamentally fragile because it relies on those branches’ respect for the rule of law and deference to its rulings. If Biden were to “ignore” this one abortion ruling, it would set the stage for any president to ignore any ruling they disliked and push on with their agenda anyway.
Regardless of party or ideology, that’s not something anyone should support.
Democrats, for their part, need only look back to the Trump administration to remember how well the judicial branch served them in their efforts to thwart former President Donald Trump’s agenda. The Supreme Court, despite its conservative majority, blocked Trump’s policies restricting Muslim immigration, rescinding protections for illegal immigrants known as “Dreamers,” and much more when those policies were unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful.
All in all, Trump only won about 47% of the time at the Supreme Court, according to the Washington Post. Meanwhile, at the lower federal courts, the Trump administration won only 11% of the time when forced to defend its regulatory policies from legal challenges.
Clearly, Democrats of all people should see why the courts are a valuable branch of government worth conserving, not obliterating. Would they have been fine with Trump simply “ignoring” those court decisions?
Meanwhile, Republicans such as Mace should note that the Supreme Court has blocked Biden’s illegal actions, such as his vaccine mandate and his nationwide “eviction moratorium.” It will also most likely strike down his unilateral attempt to “cancel” (have taxpayers absorb) billions in student loan debt as the unconstitutional act that it is. But if the Biden administration can ignore court rulings in one case where you agree with it — Mace is generally pro-life but apparently does support the FDA authorization of mifepristone — it can ignore the rest, too.
To throw a tantrum and obliterate our judicial system over one decision you dislike would be an unmitigated disaster. Thankfully, so far, the Biden administration is rejecting these irresponsible calls and abiding by the rule of law.
This column originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.
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