Wayfair and Roe

Everyone is waiting with bated breath for the Supreme Court ruling in NIFLA v. Becerra. That’s the big abortion case – dealing with the speech law in California that forces pro-life clinics to advertise for abortion.

Today a different Supreme Court case was decided, which could have a huge impact on ending abortion. The case is South Dakota v. Wayfair, and deals with online sales tax.

What could this case have to do with abortion? How could a ruling about states collecting sales tax from online retailers have an impact on abortion?

The interesting thing about the 5 to 4 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair is that it reverses two other Supreme Court cases from 1967 and 1992. The ruling in today’s Wayfair decision is that the 50-year-old rule about state sales tax for online shopping from those two past cases was “unsound and incorrect” and that both rulings “should be, and now are, overruled.”

This reversal of Supreme Court precedent was motivated by the change in economy and technology over a half century. Because technology and the economy have changed, the rule from the Supreme Court changed.

Now the two cases that were reversed today were named National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Ill. (1967) and Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992) and they probably aren’t familiar names to any of us.

But imagine if those cases being reversed were named Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992).

Imagine if the half century of development in technology and the economy since abortion was legalized in this country led to a change in that Supreme Court ruling. Imagine if our understanding of the scientific reality that an unborn child is fully human and alive led the Supreme Court of the United States to rule that their previous decision about abortion was “unsound and incorrect.”

Back in 1973 when Roe was decided, the Supreme Court was able to pretend that the question of when life begins is not settled. That is nowhere near the case today. Thanks to the development of ultrasound technology we now have a window into the womb where we can watch the development of unborn life – which is clearly life.

The Wayfair case today has demonstrated that precedent can be overturned. The word from the Supreme Court is not final. Roe v. Wade will not stand forever.

I’m looking forward to a day, not long from now, when I will read the headline that the Supreme Court has ruled that Roe and Casey “should be, and now are, overruled."