Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito clapped back at foreign leaders who attacked the high court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the June 24 decision which overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the issue of abortion to the states.
During a speech at the University of Notre Dame’s Religious Liberty Summit last week, the conservative justice responded to criticism from several foreign leaders regarding the decision, poking fun at some of them, including ousted former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Harry, whose recent speech-turned-emotional tirade at the United Nations included comparing the ruling to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Alito introduced his comments by discussing the crisis of reduction in freedom of religious speech from foreign courts, which the justice intended to criticize.
“I think we can see this sort of narrowing, particularly in the area of religious speech in the jurisprudence of some countries that profess to be dedicated to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience,” he said. “Now when I was putting these remarks together, I was tempted at this point to provide some examples. I am not a diplomat… I wouldn’t be very bad about it, but it was unusual for me, this sort of diplomatic impulse came upon me, and I said to myself, ‘you’re an American judge, and what business is it of yours to criticize decisions that are handed down by foreign courts?’”
The Supreme Court justice then went on to say that he was well within his rights to criticize the decisions of these foreign courts because of the criticism he received from foreign leaders regarding the Dobbs decision, remarking that, if foreigners feel so comfortable attacking how we govern ourselves, then we should feel comfortable doing the same in return.
“I’ve had some second thoughts over the last few weeks, since I had the honor this [Supreme Court] term of writing the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders, who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law,” Alito said, prompting a few laughs from the audience.
“One of these was former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But he paid the price,” he said, causing the audience to break into laughter and applause.
“Post hoc ergo propter hoc, right?” Alito joked, using the Latin phrase for “after this, therefore because of this,” referring to the post hoc fallacy.
“But others are still in office,” he added. “[French] President [Emmanuel] Macron, and [Canadian] Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau, I believe, are two. But what really wounded me, what really wounded me, was when the Duke of Sussex addressed the United Nations, and seemed to compare the decision whose name may not be spoken with the Russian attack on Ukraine.”
Despite all of these attacks against the Supreme Court, Alito ultimately decided to take the high road.
“Well, despite this temptation, I’m not gonna talk about cases from other countries,” he said. “All I’m gonna say is that, ultimately, if we are going to win the battle to protect religious freedom in an increasingly secular society, we will need more than positive law.”
Johnson, Macron, Trudeau, and several other foreign leaders — some whose countries actually have more restrictive laws on abortion than many states — attacked the U.S., and more specifically the Supreme Court, following the release of the Dobbs decision. The former U.K. prime minister called the ruling a “big step backward.”
“I’ve always believed in a woman’s right to choose, and I stick to that view. And that’s why the U.K. has the laws that it does,” said Johnson, who was forced to resign from his position in July over allegations that he held parties during the COVID lockdowns.
During a speech to the United Nations in July, Prince Harry claimed that the Dobbs decision was part of a “a global assault on democracy and freedom.”