The last two Supreme Court terms were a shock to the system. First came the Dobbs ruling that overturned the fundamental constitutional right to abortion care when it struck down Roe v. Wade.
Then last year, the Supreme Court gutted affirmative action in college admissions, struck down the Biden administration’s student loan reforms, and gave businesses the right to discriminate against same-sex couples, to name just a few of the consequential decisions handed down by the most activist and ideological Supreme Court in memory.
What can we expect from the term that’s about to begin? More of the same? Or even worse?
Women will be watching this court to see how far it is prepared to push back against the principle that the government is responsible for expanding equality, fighting for justice and lifting the disadvantaged.
We’ve been at this crossroads for too long. Nine justices — three appointed by Donald Trump — have unparalleled power, and last year, the new ultra-conservative majority embarked on a mission to turn back the clock on centuries of progress.
The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in stone over the entrance to the Supreme Court, but how often have those words rung hollow? Equal has to mean equal — every day and always.
One of the most significant cases we can expect to hear argued this term is a challenge to the continued availability of medication abortion. Last year, District Court for the Northern District of Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, one of Trump’s most conservative judicial appointments, revoked the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, which has been used for more than 20 years and makes up the majority of abortion care in the United States. Last month, the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit agreed that the regulatory clock could be rolled back.
The court imposed new barriers to access that endanger women and force them to make unnecessary in-person visits to a doctor’s office, taking away the right of patients to access medication abortion via telehealth in the privacy and security of their homes.
Now, the Supreme Court has full power to not only rule on the issue of access to medication abortion but also the authority of the FDA to determine the safety and efficacy of all drugs. What does that mean to women’s health? What does it mean to all of us?
Like so many other court decisions that make sweeping changes to our rights and freedoms, the effect of this reversal would be hardest on low-income people and communities of color, who already are dealing with disproportionate obstacles to care and health disparities.
The medication abortion case is not the only challenge to women’s rights we’ll be watching this term.
United States v. Rahimi will consider whether individuals with domestic violence restraining orders can be prohibited from possessing a firearm. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, an average of 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month, and access to a gun makes it five times more likely that the abusive partner will kill his female victim.
But the same court that ruled in the mifepristone case, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, invalidated the law passed by Congress that kept deadly firearms out of the hands of violent abusers, ruling that individuals subject to domestic violence protective orders still have a constitutional right to possess guns.
Their reasoning? Because no such law existed in the 1700s or 1800s, when domestic violence wasn’t even recognized as a problem, it couldn’t be constitutional today.
“We conclude that (the law’s) ban on possession of firearms is an ‘outlier’ that our ancestors would never have accepted,” the 5th Circuit said.
Instead of invoking our “ancestors,” the Supreme Court should consider what a bipartisan majority in Congress agreed on three decades ago, including the most stalwart defenders of Second Amendment rights, when the law being challenged was passed.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Supreme Court, by and large, reflected the national consensus on fundamental rights and freedoms. But now, an increasingly activist, ideological and partisan Supreme Court is setting its own agenda — one that’s not only out of step with public opinion but downright dangerous to women.
That’s why until the Supreme Court ends its new term next June, we’ll be tracking every case, speaking out on behalf of equality and justice, and keeping the pressure on the least democratic branch of the federal government — the Supreme Court.