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Experts: SCOTUS Case, Baker Decision May Shift National Legal, Political Landscapes

Authorities Available for Interviews on the Latest News

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UMass Lowell expert sources are available to comment on news out of the U.S. Supreme Court and Massachusetts.

12/01/2021

Contact for media: Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

UMass Lowell experts in politics and the Supreme Court are available today to comment on two breaking stories that could significantly alter the legal and political future of Massachusetts and the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court today considers a law out of Mississippi that bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks. The court is expected to issue its ruling on the matter by the end of the justices’ term next June.

Morgan Marietta, a constitutional scholar and authority on the high court, wrote about the case in a piece for The Conversation that is free for republication. He says the legal question before the justices concerns the definition of “personhood.”

“Contrary to much of the partisan and popular discussion, the debate at the Supreme Court is not about the existence of the abortion right. It is about the second important ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973, that the right is limited by the personhood of a fetus,” Marietta said. “The court defined ‘personhood’ – the status as a holder of rights, and hence a counterbalance to a woman’s rights – as emerging at the point of viability, around six months. The State of Mississippi has redefined the emergence of personhood as 15 weeks, not 24 – and Texas has redefined it to six weeks. The court will consider and decide whether the justices are the deciders of a national standard for this disputed social fact, or whether individual states may decide their own definition, allowing diversity in the boundaries of personhood – and the regulation of abortion – throughout the country.”

And, in a Massachusetts race that likely holds national implications, Gov. Charlie Baker has decided not to run for a third term, with his second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito also bowing out of a run for governor in 2022, according to several reports.

The decisions are “stunning and disruptive,” according to UMass Lowell’s John Cluverius.

“It’s hard to overstate how much of a surprise this move is by Charlie Baker. Like a sailboat that’s gone too far off the coast of Gloucester, Baker is caught in shifting political winds with no safe harbor in sight. He’s betting he would lose to Geoff Diehl, who has all of the Trumpian qualities that Massachusetts voters find odious with none of the redeeming ones, and further, that an independent run for governor would alienate him from the institutional apparatus of the Republican Party,” Cluverius said. “Baker is most likely the most popular governor in the country who is willingly bowing out of the politics. His job approval rating – as a Republican in one of the most Democratic states in the union – has never been below 50% in any poll at any time, and pre-pandemic, he was regularly rated as the most popular Republican governor in the country. Most notably, Baker is the only currently serving Republican governor who is more popular with Democrats than he is with either independents or Republicans.”

Marietta and Cluverius are both associate professors of political science at UMass Lowell. Marietta is the editor of an annual volume on the major decisions of the Supreme Court and is the author of several books on American politics, most recently, “One Nation, Two Realities: Dueling Facts in American Democracy,” from Oxford University Press. 

Cluverius is the associate director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion. Before joining the university, he worked as a political operative for a variety of candidates for elective office and interest groups.

To arrange an interview with either Marietta or Cluverius via phone, email or Zoom (or another platform), contact Nancy Cicco at Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu.