When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, in a draft opinion obtained and published this week by Politico, detailed his justifications for overturning Roe v. Wade, he invoked a surprising name given the case’s subject. In writing about abortion, a matter inextricably tied to a woman’s control over her body, Alito chose to quote from Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century English jurist whose writings and reasonings have caused enduring damage to women for hundreds of years.
The so-called marital rape exemption — the legal notion that a married woman cannot be raped by her husband — traces to Hale. So does a long-used instruction to jurors to be skeptical of reports of rape. So, in a way, do the infamous Salem witch trials, in which women (and some men) were hanged on or near Gallows Hill.
Hale’s influence in the United States has been on the wane since the 1970s, with one state after another abandoning his legal principles on rape. But Alito’s opinion resurrects Hale, a judge who was considered misogynistic even by his era’s notably low standards…Alito, in his draft opinion, invokes “eminent common-law authorities,” including Hale, to show how abortion was viewed historically not as a right, but as a criminal act. “Two treatises by Sir Matthew Hale likewise described abortion of a quick child who died in the womb as a ‘great crime’ and a ‘great misprision,’” Alito wrote.
Alito may as well quote the fictional Simon Legree on the usefulness of slavery – to rely on this sort of anachronistic crap. Unless, of course, he wishes to support some of his peers in the Republican Party who still resent the inclusion of women as equal citizens before the law of these United States.