Justice Clarence Thomas has hit out at protesters enraged by a leaked decision that would overturn Roe v Wade, saying that the Supreme Court can’t be “bullied”.
The leak of a draft opinion, that revealed a majority of justices were in favour of revoking abortion rights, set off waves of protests in more than a dozen cities across the United States this week.
Justice Thomas, a hardline conservative who has strongly advocated reversing the landmark 1973 ruling, made passing reference to the outcry during an appearance at the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference in Atlanta on Friday.
The 73-year-old said that as a society, “we are becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don’t like”, according to Reuters.
“We can’t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want. The events from earlier this week are a symptom of that,” he said.
In a question-and-answer session with a former law clerk, he referred to the “unfortunate events” of the past week, and said that he worried about declining respect for institutions.
“It bodes ill for a free society,” he added.
Protesters have gathered at the Supreme Court in Washington DC every night since Justice Samuel Alito’s draft memo revealing that the court could overturn the landmark Roe v Wade case law was published by Politico on Monday.
On Wednesday, a ring of 2.4metre-high, non-scaleable fencing was erected around the courthouse.
Abortion rights supporters have also gathered in mostly peaceful protests in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Boston, Sacramento and Denver.
The leaked opinion sparked a storm of controversy as it appears to show the conservative bloc of the court is set to end the right to abortion nationwide, and give states the authority to determine their own laws.
Chief Justice John Roberts later confirmed the authenticity of the document and opened an investigation into the leak, calling it a “betrayal”.
Justice Alito cancelled a public appearance at another judicial conference on Friday.
In March, it was revealed that Justice Thomas’s wife Ginni Thomas had repeatedly pressured former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
Justice Thomas was also the sole dissenting vote in the court’s January decision that rejected Donald Trump’s bid to withhold documents from the 6 January panel.