We can’t even imagine a grade adequate for the Supreme Court this year, as the current scale stops after only five letters.
If we ever wondered how to get a worse grade than “F,” the U.S. Supreme Court showed us when they overturned abortion rights.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health obliterated the landscape around the Supreme Court. It devastated the court’s legitimacy and solidified its growing reputation as a political instrument that is free to be used to advance an extremist, partisan agenda.
While this case was not the only SCOTUS ruling to set back women’s rights — the New York gun law comes to mind — it didn’t appear out of a vacuum. The Supreme Court has been earning its failing grade for a long time.
Days before the Dobbs decision, public confidence in the court was at an all-time low, with only a 25% approval rating from Gallup. It’s no wonder — in case after case, the court has sided with those who would restrict, repeal and deny our rights — and do nothing to advance autonomy and equality.
The court’s ruling to end the constitutional right to abortion could mean the death penalty for more pregnant women of color than ever, including Black, Indigenous and Latino people. These groups have long been systematically disadvantaged and neglected by the healthcare system, which is pervaded 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 birth in 2020. Statistics show that these rates are highest in states where restrictions on abortion are already in effect.
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 eliminated their rights — and the reproductive health rights of millions more.
Another freedom the Supreme Court ruled to eliminate this term was economic freedom. The court turned a blind eye to the effect overturning Roe will have on the ability of pregnant women to take care of themselves and the children they have or will have.
What happens to the economy when you take all those people out of the workforce? Middlebury College economist Caitlin Knowles Myers said, “Whether and under what circumstances to become a mother is the single most economically important decision most women will make in their lifetimes.”
You can’t 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 turned away because they missed the gestational-week cutoff in their states and carried their pregnancy to term.
Those women experienced more financial difficulties, including an 80% rise in bankruptcies, evictions and tax liens. Women who were denied an abortion had four times greater odds of living below the federal poverty level. Being denied abortion care lowered credit scores, increased personal debt and pushed more women out of the workforce or into lower-paying jobs, the study showed.
An amicus brief filed in the Dobbs case by Myers and more than 150 other economists said that legal abortion care reduced teen motherhood by 34% and teen marriage by 20%. It also showed how access to abortion care increases the probability that teenage girls of color would graduate from high school by 22% to 24%, with a 23% to 27% increase in the likelihood of attending college.
Restrictions on abortion already cost states $105 billion a year, and young women who used legal abortion care early in their working lives saw an 11% increase in hourly wages later in their careers.
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 intent to erode freedom of the press by revisiting the Sullivan case that restricted the ability of public officials to sue journalists for defamation.
We need a Supreme Court that sees equal justice under the law as not just a phrase carved on its walls but a mandate — and a mission.
While that mission may lie in ruins today, it can be revived. The next term will be the opening of the Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson era. Change is happening — but not fast enough for the millions of Americans who want the Supreme Court to keep the promise carved on its entrance: equal justice under law.
Christian F. Nunes is the president of the National Organization for Women. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.