From the birth of this country, the Supreme Court of the United States has handed down decisions that defined generations. A position on the court holds the immense power to shape legislation and even how our constitution is perceived. Due to this power, the livelihoods of many Americans lie in the hands of whoever replaces Justice Anthony Kennedy. President Trump has appointed D.C. circuit court judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacant position. If Brett Kavanaugh were to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, his appointment would be the final step in the decades long conservative goal to overturn the court case Roe vs. Wade and restrict women’s access to abortion and reproductive care.
The Monumental Court Decision
Forty five years ago, on January 22nd, the Supreme Court handed down the decision on a case that would shape what it meant to be a woman in this country. Roe vs Wade guarantees one’s constitutional right to make their own choice about what to do with their body, the most relevant application being abortion access.
It is easy for my generation to take this right for granted but life before Roe was frightening for many women. Deaths caused by illegal abortions pre-Roe vs Wade constituted one sixth of childbirth and pregnancy related fatalities at their peak. This risk was even more daunting for low income women who could not afford a professional to perform the illegal operation. It was clear that this status quo was not sustainable, and that safe abortion access was vital to women’s health. Other than avoiding unnecessary bodily harm through illegal abortions, if there were to be complications throughout the pregnancy having the option of abortion is essential.
The case was resolved with a seven to two vote in favor of legal abortion, and the decision is becoming more and more popular every year. In a recent NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll, 71 percent of Americans support the decision, including 52 percent of Republicans. While there is a large margin between Democrat and Republican support of the issue, 88 to 52 percent, the decision is still popular across the political spectrum. Roe has also garnered wide support from communities of color and young people. The American people overwhelmingly believe women should have the right to choose, but that is not always reflected in how our representatives handle legislation surrounding this right.
The Wrathful Backlash
Although Roe is a widely respected case, Conservatives have been hard at work chipping away at the decision. Nationwide, this attack is the clearest when it comes to the debate over funding for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides many services that range from family planning, sex education, to testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and even men’s health. The organization does much more than provide abortions, yet its funding is constantly on the line.
Similarly, the current presidential administration is trying to pass a domestic gag rule which hinders a physician’s ability to discuss all pregnancy options with their patients. In a smaller government sense, many states have passed laws and regulations that restrict access to abortion or hamper the ability of women’s health care providers to provide abortions. Even if abortion is legal nationwide, it is becoming increasingly inaccessible because of republican efforts.
The Definitive Paper Trail
The Trump administration has made it clear that it is their prerogative to see Roe vs Wade overturned during their term and the best way to do that is through appointing an extremely conservative judge to the Supreme Court. This opportunity presented itself in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. From a list created by right-wing special interest group, Trump chose Brett Kavanaugh, a D.C. circuit court judge with a history of playing by his own rules when it comes to his court decisions. He has been vocal concerning his opposition to Roe and during his time as a lawyer he has written opinions and dissents that ignore the goals of precedents, including his ACA dissent in 2011, that imply that he is bold enough to overturn such a definitive precedent as Roe vs Wade. Kavanaugh is exactly the appointee that will do what the Republicans have been too scared to do for decades.
The Terrifying Possibility
With Kavanaugh’s appointment sitting on the horizon, it is important to look at the possibilities that come with his plausible actions. If Roe vs Wade was overturned right now, it would immediately become illegal in Kentucky, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Illinois. Roe makes abortion legal federally, so if it were overturned the decision would go to the states. Due to this state by state dichotomy, trigger laws that are in place in the aforementioned states would make providing abortions illegal. Along with that, only seven states have legislation that ensures legal access to abortion. This leaves a lot of gray area for women who are not sure of the future of their state, so much so that 22 states are at risk for criminalizing abortion. This is a daunting future ahead of us, but we are not helpless.
The Fight Ahead
In the case of something as seemingly untouchable to normal citizens as the confirmation of a presidential appointment, it can be easy to become discouraged, but there is still a fight ahead. In the most direct sense it is important we make our voices heard. Our senators are supposed to represent us and our values, so it is vital we call their offices, send postcards, write emails, and do whatever we can to make our voices heard. The fact that one appointee can put all of this at risk is bound to be upsetting, so it is key that legislation gets passed on the state level to protect a woman’s right to choose. Whether through contacting your state representative, rallying support and creating a political action committee, or running for office yourself, the only way anything will get done is if we all work together and do it ourselves.
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