“The Founding Fathers set up the American judiciary as a check on the excesses of the elected branches and as a refuge when those branches are corrupted or consumed by passing passions” once said Senator Whitehouse of Utah. Is this a utopic definition of the U.S. Supreme Court? Is it truly as independent as the Senator portrays it, or is it just another political mechanism, meant to disguise itself as a free agent?
There is no doubt that some Supreme Court justices are more “conservative” than others, whereas others are more “liberal” (given that some rule more conservatively and vice-versa). Right now, five Supreme Court justices are considered to be conservatives and four liberals. This is an important factor to understand when realizing the true power of the Supreme Court – it is the final court of appeal in the country and deals with matters considered to be of the utmost importance to Americans. When there is a majority on either side of the Court (either conservative or liberal) the decisions that come out of it reflect that majority. For example, in the present we see a tendency towards conservatism coming out of the Court, as the balance of its justices’ angers Democrats and liberals around the country. However, if they are unhappy with the Court’s current balance, it could get worse in the coming years.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, feminist icon, is one of the few women to ever serve on the Supreme Court. She was nominated in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and has since served 26 years without missing a single day of work. To put her veracity and commitment into consideration, she went into work the day after her own husband died back in 2010. However, her perfect attendance record stopped short recently as she had to miss several days of work to recover from cancer surgery. This major change in her health has prompted some to believe that her retirement may not be far away; thus giving President Donald Trump a third Supreme Court appointment in less than 4 years, even more than Presidents Bush Jr. and Obama (they had two appointments each in their 8-year presidencies).
Based on the options President Trump has put forward in the past for Supreme Court justice, there is no doubt that a third appointment would be as conservative as the two others. This would solidify the conservative majority on the Court and open new doors for this group. What kind of America would we see with three liberal judges against six? Roe v Wade, in which the Court made it illegal for states to criminalize abortion by declaring that the right to access a safe abortion is a right that every American woman has (legalizing it on a national level), is expected to be the next target of the Court’s conservative majority. Although nothing has been confirmed yet, the current Supreme Court is already on the verge of declaring war on Roe v Wade; they may hear a ‘eugenics statute’ suit challenging the case if four justices agree to hear it. Needless to say that if this were to happen, some women in so-called “pro-life” states may have to go back to the black market and nasty basements for illegal and very dangerous abortions as women were forced to do 45 years ago.
An article by Vice in January of 2018 detailed the stories of six women who wanted abortions in the years before Roe v Wade, when they were illegal. It is a moving and devastating piece that covers the case of an anonymous woman from New York; it reads: “In 1965, I was living with a married man, 23 years older than me, a physician. I became pregnant even though I was using birth control. There was no legal abortion in those days, so we did it ourselves. He was a physician and was able to provoke it. I was like seven weeks pregnant at the time. I think it was with a coat hanger.”
If the Supreme Court does slide further to the right on the political spectrum and takes aim at the case, it would need to dismiss the major precedent and rule against it. Even though precedents are usually set in stone, history shows that this does not stop the Court. Another case called Planned Parenthood v Casey, that served as precedent for some cases, was overturned just a year ago, fueling rumors that the Court may not be so fearful of overturning precedents. However, Americans would not agree with this line of reasoning; an NBC/Washington Post Journal poll conducted in July 2018 shows that 71% percent of Americans do not believe Roe v Wade should be overturned. “Those supporting the ruling include 88 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents and a majority — 52 percent — of Republicans”. When looking at these statistics one can realize that even a majority of Republicans do not want to see Roe v Wade overturned; then who actually does? Who is the court “fighting” for?
In the eventuality that the Court succeeds in this conservative attack on free choice, many states would automatically revert to criminalizing abortions. “There are four states where abortion would be banned as soon as Roe v. Wade were overturned: Louisiana, Mississippi, and North and South Dakota have enacted “trigger laws” with delayed effective dates. Nine states still have pre-Roe abortion bans on the books that never were repealed.” Women in these 13 states would have to experience the horrifying stories that those American women lived through decades ago.
Some are already preparing for this catastrophic event, like Governor Cuomo of New York who wants to ensure that his constituents are able to get a safe abortion no matter what. He announced this in January 2019 with Hillary Clinton at his side; “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he will seek to codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing a constitutional right to terminate pregnancy, into the state’s Constitution.” This would give Roe v Wade constitutional authority in the state of New York, which means that it is superior to other laws.
In conclusion, this only goes to show how powerful the Supreme Court is but also how the current President is; his voice and his choice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg if she does choose retirement could literally bring the United States back to the pre-1970s. Is this truly a good goal to have? Should the progress that was made during the last 4 or 5 decades be erased and ignored? History should be the only necessary proof that banning abortions is not only wrong, but it doesn’t work. Women are still going to undergo abortions no matter what, except Roe v Wade makes them safe. Without it, women seeking abortions around the country would be in mortal danger; there’s no doubt about that.