You may have heard that a crowd of peaceful protesters gathered outside a restaurant where Justice Kavanaugh was dining one evening recently. Now, I don’t approve of threats of violence under any circumstances, but from what I can gather, there were none … this was a peaceful protest. Actions have consequences, and when you make a decision that is life-altering (not in any good way) for more than half the population, I think you have to expect that people will make their displeasure known in whatever way they can. In fact, one section of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads …
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In his July 9th newsletter, Robert Hubbell summed it up well, I think …
These two things are not alike.
A troubling aspect of the Dobbs decision is that many people view it as an abstraction rather than a significant change in the status of women under the Constitution. A small example of that occurred in a protest at Morton’s Steakhouse in Washington, D.C. Justice Kavanaugh was eating dinner at Morton’s yesterday. Word quickly spread, protesters gathered outside the restaurant, and someone called Morton’s to express their displeasure at Kavanaugh’s presence in the restaurant. Kavanaugh later left the restaurant through the back entrance to avoid the protesters.
Morton’s (read: a male manager at Morton’s who didn’t have the sense to consult a woman) issued an offensive statement that read, in part:
“Politics . . . should not trample the freedom of the right to congregate and eat dinner. Disturbing the dinner of all of our customers was an act of selfishness and void of decency.”
Wow! Strong words! Let’s take a look at Morton’s statement and consider the competing injuries of being subjected to free speech and being stalked by bounty hunters seeking a reward for reporting a woman who just had a miscarriage. Spoiler alert: Those two things are not alike.
First, Morton’s asserts there is a “right to eat dinner.” Well, let’s apply the Dobbs analytical framework to that right. The “right to eat dinner” does not appear in the text of the Constitution, nor is there an implied “right to eat dinner” that is a “deeply rooted tradition in our nation’s history.” As explained in Merriam-Webster’s usage note on “dinner” …
“The use of dinner to refer to the main meal of the day, eaten as the last meal of the day, is a relatively recent phenomenon.”
So, sorry, Morton’s, there is no express or implied constitutional “right to eat dinner” under Dobbs.
Second, Morton’s (like Kavanaugh) might be shocked to learn that the Constitution expressly protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Justice Kavanaugh might not like hearing the grievances of the people injured by his decision in Dobbs, but he has no constitutional right to prevent the protesters from expressing those opinions peacefully.
Finally, Kavanaugh knew when he joined the majority in Dobbs that women suffering miscarriages would be reported by bounty hunters to law enforcement in the hope of earning a $10,000 reward. Between 10% to 15% of pregnancies spontaneously miscarry. In Texas, women who suffer miscarriages and seek medical treatment presumptively expose their doctors to criminal prosecution and a $100,000 fine. Thus, the 10% – 15% of women who suffer miscarriages in Texas will likely be denied medical treatment because their doctors fear they will be charged with a felony. Compare that injury to being forced to eat a $75 steak while drinking a $200 bottle of wine as protesters gather peacefully on the street.
Kavanaugh lied his way onto the Court and has engaged in the bad-faith reversal of settled precedents in multiple cases. He should not be surprised that Americans are unhappy with his use of the Court as a raw political weapon. Let’s hope that the peaceful protests cause him to reflect on the fact that his actions have made the lives of American women immensely worse. Perhaps a bit of humility about the real-world consequences of his decisions will temper his thinking in future matters.
As for Morton’s, telling women that protesting their demotion to second-class citizenship is “selfish and void of decency” demonstrates that it is out of touch with what just happened in America. Someone who is not angry at women should take over the PR function at Morton’s.