The US Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority is looking to take away your rights. And they’ve just gotten started.
The next few cases lining up for consideration look especially worrying to those of a liberal mindset. Firstly, by agreeing to take up Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court will review the constitutionality of 2018 Mississippi legislation that bans abortions after week 15 of pregnancy, except in cases of health emergencies or fetal abnormalities. In the case, Jackson Women’s Health Organization — which is also the only licensed abortion provider in Mississippi — challenged the law’s constitutionality. The Federal District Court for the 5th District agreed with Jackson Women’s Health, ruling that court precedent prohibits bans before “viability of a fetus”, which happens around week 24 of pregnancy. The US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circut upheld the federal district court’s decision arguing that Mississippi was effectively banning pre-viability abortions. Mississippi appealed the appellate court’s decision and the Supreme Court effectively said, “Bring it on, liberals.”
The Supreme Court’s decision to take up this case is especially stomach-churning when you consider who sits on it: Justice Kavanaugh is an accused rapist and Justice Thomas is an accused sexual harasser. Even without those details, the idea that six men and just three women could overturn landmark legislation on women’s bodily autonomy is maddening. Yet a look at past decisions cast by the Supreme Court Justices means we need to take this challenge seriously. Justice Thomas has criticized abortion jurisprudence and said that the Supreme Court should be open to reconsidering precedent, including on abortion rights, in the past. In 2017, Kavanaugh praised the dissent in Roe v. Wade. That same year, Kavanaugh dissented in a case where an undocumented teenager in Texas was ultimately allowed to get an abortion. And after the death of fierce abortion rights activist Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court’s newest appointee, Amy Coney Barrett, signed an anti-abortion ad in a local newspaper back in 2007 criticizing what the ad termed “abortion on demand”.
And then there’s the other cases the court has agreed to review next term. New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Corlett reviews gun rights, and Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College questions the Ivy League institution’s lauded race and admissions policy. In practical terms, that means that if conservative justices take traditionally conservative positions on the issues in front of them, Americans can look forward to more uncared-for babies in the foster care system, more child poverty and single mothers, more public shootings, more armed, angry and legally emboldened white supremacists, and more domestic abusers with easy access to deadly weapons. It also means that Americans will see fewer Black and other historically disadvantaged communities of color in the hallways of the nation’s higher education institutions. Without question, these potential case outcomes spell a giant step backward for mankind.
Hope is not lost, however. This issue and others that progressives face with a testosterone-heavy, conservative Supreme Court could be changed by President Biden and the Democratically-held Congress. In April of this year, Biden issued an executive order to study reforms to the Supreme Court. And that same month, Democrats introduced a bill to increase the number of justices on SCOTUS from nine to 13. This would give Biden and Dems a chance to stack the court with more progressive justices, a threat that has proved successful in keeping conservatives from running riot in the past: In 1937, FDR threatened that route when the Court struck down, and then (under pressure) upheld the New Deal reforms. FDR subsequently dropped the proposal.
But Pelosi and other top Democratic leaders have said that increasing the number of justices is suboptimal. So, the court-packing bill is all but guaranteed to fail. There is also the option of changing the term limits of the justices, which is a much better way to make an impact on the ridiculously powerful court. The bad part? Congress might have to amend the Constitution, since Article III (which is dedicated to the judiciary) states: “The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior”. And we all know how easy it is to amend the US Constitution.
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