We can’t even imagine an adequate grade for the Supreme Court this year, as the current scale stops after just five letters. If we’ve ever wondered how to get a grade worse than “F,” the United States Supreme Court showed it to us when it struck down abortion rights.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health has cleared the landscape around the Supreme Court. It devastated the court’s legitimacy and bolstered its growing reputation as a political tool free to be used to advance an extremist and partisan agenda.
While this case was not the only SCOTUS decision to set back women’s rights – the New York gun decision comes to mind – it did not emerge from a vacuum. The Supreme Court has long earned its failing grade.
Days before the Dobbs ruling, public confidence in the court was at an all-time low, with just 25% approval from Gallup. It is no wonder that in case after case the court has sided with those who would restrict, abrogate and deny our rights, and do nothing to advance self-reliance and equality.
The court’s decision to end the constitutional right to abortion could mean the death penalty for more pregnant women of color than ever before, including blacks, Indigenous peoples and Latinos. These groups have long been systematically disadvantaged and neglected by the health care system, which is plagued by racism, discrimination and marginalization.
Experts agree that without Roe’s constitutional right to abortion, maternal mortality rates will skyrocket, especially among people of color. The United States already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world, with 861 deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth in 2020. Statistics show that these rates are highest in states where abortion restrictions are already in place.
Mississippi, where the Dobbs case began, has one of the highest maternal mortality rates – almost twice as high as the rest of the United States – and the highest infant mortality rate. But instead of facilitating the most effective way to protect women’s health in Mississippi, the Supreme Court has stripped away their rights — and the reproductive health rights of millions of others.
Another freedom that the Supreme Court decided to eliminate this term was economic freedom. The court turned a blind eye to the effect Roe’s cancellation will have on pregnant women’s ability to care for themselves and the children they have or will have.
What happens to the economy when you pull all these people out of the labor force? Middlebury College economist Caitlin Knowles Myers said: “Whether and under what circumstances to become a mother is the single most important economic decision most women will make in their lifetime.
You cannot have economic equality or justice without reproductive rights and laws that protect bodily autonomy. The landmark Turnaway Study, conducted in 2019, compared the finances of women who could access abortion care with those who were denied because they missed the week’s gestation limit in their states and led their term pregnancy.
These women experienced more financial hardship, including an 80% increase in bankruptcies, evictions, and tax liens. Women who were denied an abortion were four times more likely to live below the federal poverty level. The study showed that being denied abortion care lowered credit scores, increased personal debt and pushed more women out of the workforce or into lower-paying jobs.
An amicus brief filed in the Dobbs case by Myers and more than 150 other economists said legal abortion care reduced teen motherhood by 34% and teen marriage by 20%. It also showed how access to abortion care increases the likelihood of teenage girls of color graduating from high school by 22% to 24%, with a 23% to 27% increase in the likelihood of going. at University.
Abortion restrictions already cost states $105 billion a year, and young women who sought legal abortion care early in their working lives saw their hourly wages increase by 11% later in their lives. career.
In his concurring opinion in the Dobbs case, Justice Clarence Thomas named the next targets for rights to be taken away – marriage equality, LGBTQIA+ rights and the right to contraception, among others. A few days later, he declared his intention to erode press freedom by revisiting the Sullivan case which limited the ability of public officials to sue journalists for defamation.
We need a Supreme Court that sees equal justice before the law not just as a phrase engraved on its walls, but as a mandate – and a mission.
Although this mission is now in ruins, it can be revived. The next term will be the opening of the era of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Change is happening — but not fast enough for the millions of Americans who want the Supreme Court to deliver on the promise engraved on its entry: equal justice under the law.
Christian F. Nunes is the President of the National Women’s Organization.