Yesterday, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, and the question facing our country is clear: Will his replacement ensure that the Supreme Court does its most basic job and ensure that the rights of individuals are not trampled by the political agenda of the powerful?
Among the freedoms currently in imminent danger is the right to control your own body and make decisions about your future.
For more than 40 years, the right to safe and legal abortion has been the law of the land. Roe v. Wade has been upheld repeatedly by the court, most recently two years ago in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision, in which Justice Kennedy’s was the deciding vote.
Trump has promised to only nominate justices who will overturn Roe. Unless the Senate fights fiercely for a fair-minded justice, our daughters and granddaughters will have fewer rights than we have today.
Already, the Supreme Court, under the Trump-Pence administration, has issued troubling 5-4 decisions in which the court’s conservative justices carried the day.
On Tuesday, the Court ruled 5-4 to uphold Trump’s travel ban on people from majority-Muslim countries. They ruled 5-4 that anti-abortion activists are free to pose as doctors in fake (and in some cases taxpayer-funded) clinics and lure in women with the promise of free medical care, only to lie to them about the safety of abortion and withhold information about where they can get the care they need.
This term also saw Abbott v. Perez, in which the court overturned the lower court’s ruling that Texas’ districts were gerrymandered on racial grounds; Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, which held that Ohio’s purge of the voter registry does not violate the National Voter Registration Act; and Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, which blocked workers’ attempts to join together in class or group arbitration with employers.
These decisions indicate a dangerous trend: the Supreme Court tipping the scales to benefit those who already enjoy privilege at the expense of those who experience discrimination – especially people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, people with low incomes. These are the people who will be hurt by the court’s decisions.
And with another Trump appointee on the court, the decisions could get much, much worse.
Planned Parenthood is committed to providing safe, non-judgmental spaces for women to make their own health care decisions. Yet the Trump administration is doing everything in their power to stop women from even accessing the care they need.
Women are facing a barrage of attacks from the Trump-Pence administration. And, across the country, state politicians are chipping away at the right to access abortion, passing laws that put this safe, legal health care out of reach for millions of women. Often, the courts are the only avenue women have to protect their right to access health care, the last line of defense for protecting the individual from the political whims of the powerful.
Today, when “the powerful” include an uninformed, volatile president, a Congress run by his political cronies, and the unfit, far right-wing judges he is appointing to the bench, the Supreme Court is more important than ever before.
Each vote is the difference between upholding our ideals of individual rights and freedoms and allowing those ideals to be run over by a conservative political agenda only interested in maintaining the status quo or worse yet, turning the clock backwards.
Already, our country has seen the power of one vote: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stole a Supreme Court seat, refusing to hold a hearing for President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland for nearly two years, and this term’s 5-4 decisions reveal a conservative court looking out for the powerful.
The idea of Trump having his choice to fill another vacancy is terrifying for not only abortion rights, but all of the rights that protect individuals’ ability to live free from discrimination in this country.
We need our leaders in Congress to fight for our rights and liberties, and reject any nominee who puts our basic rights at risk.
Dana Singiser is the vice president of Public Policy and Government Affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.