Get Off Your Ass
That's it, that's the whole title
Earlier this week on the 24th of June 2022, the Supreme Court finally overturned Roe v. Wade. We already knew this was going to happen thanks to the draft leak that came out earlier this year, and I wrote a post on what I think the road ahead looks like for pro-choice activists. But dire predictions have started flying around on what this means for other issues that were decided via Supreme Court rulings, such as gay marriage and contraception.
What’s abundantly clear is that the Supreme Court has simply become another political tool to achieve policy goals. And arguably it’s among the most powerful policy tools out there, given the fact that justices have lifetime appointments and—because of judicial review—they can basically shut down any law that they interpret as unconstitutional. The justices are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, which today means that if one party holds both the presidency and the Senate, they have the power to change the makeup of the Court as they see fit. In this case, during the Trump presidency, Republicans were able to get three conservative justices onto the Court, and we’re just now seeing the result of that. This is the big advantage Republicans have over Democrats—a cold, pragmatic focus on policy goals that align with their ideological agenda, and a willingness to pursue those goals by any means necessary. Given all of this, I believe it’s time to talk about reforming the Supreme Court—namely in terms of how justices are appointed, how to minimize political bias in their decision-making, and how to disincentivize the ghouls in the legislative and executive branches from using the judicial branch as a political cudgel.
As I implied earlier, having Supreme Court justices be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate is no longer sufficient to maintain a power balance and separation between the three branches of government. If the Supreme Court is going to maintain its long-term legitimacy—there are already those who are deeming it a rogue institution—I think there needs to be a way to ensure that no party that controls the other two branches can have singular control of it.
That was going to be the focus of this article, but I changed my mind at the last minute. There are more important things to worry about at the current moment.
I stated in my previous Roe v. Wade post that, if the leaked draft decision were to become the final decision, it would grant states the ability to make decisions regarding abortion instead. As far as I can tell, that’s what’s happened here. Thus, pro-choice activists need to focus their attention away from the national arena and towards protecting abortion rights state-by-state. If abortion protections are passed in enough states, it’s likely that the federal government will cave in and pass abortion protections federally.
Thankfully, protests are already taking place across the country in response to Roe v. Wade being overturned. But activism isn’t the only thing that needs to be done; pro-choice candidates need to be elected, and the public square needs to ring with discourse about how and why abortion needs to be legalized, even if a lot of people don’t consider it moral or ethical—with the goal of convincing fence-sitters towards being pro-choice. And lastly, while I don’t condone violent actions of any kind, I have no qualms about civil disobedience.
The pro-choice movement isn’t the only movement that needs to be prepared for an uphill battle, though. Contraception and same-sex marriage are set to be on the chopping block next if Justice Thomas’s assertion is to be taken seriously. So, all the same things I outlined above need to happen with contraception and same-sex marriage, too.
Ultimately, I’m a firm believer in the march of progress, and so I do think eventually we’ll see abortion federally legalized again, along with contraception and same-sex marriage. But that belief is qualified by the necessity for persistent advocacy and activism. This live action backslide towards theocracy will persist for as long as enough people passively accept it. But the first step is helping people to realize that what they do matters—not just in terms of their vote, but in terms of everything they do in relation to politics and public life. Everything else flows from there.