Over the past two weeks the Supreme Court passed two rulings that history will recall as the most infamous and extremely dangerous for the American people. Last Friday, the Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a 50-year-old ruling that enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion, which violates their right to choose and acutely compromises their health and wellbeing. The other ruling, overturning New York’s 100-year-old gun licensing law, put in harm’s way millions of New Yorkers and other Americans in states with similar laws, as more firearms will be easily accessible. More people will be killed, deliberately or accidently, as a result of this thoughtless and reckless ruling.
The saddest aspect of the Court’s first decision, however, is the sharp turn the Court has taken to become deeply ideological and intensely religious, and it will now likely target other civil right legislation, including same-sex marriage. To be sure, the Court, which has been held in the highest esteem, has now not only lost its reputation but has also abdicated its responsibility and compromised its credibility to render justice, which was the hallmark of the Court.
Overturning Roe v. Wade
In a May 2022 poll, two-thirds of Americans said they did not support overturning Roe, albeit a similar percentage believe there should be some restrictions on abortion access (ranging from only allowed in cases of rape/incest/to save the mother’s life, to permitting it up to the first six months). Only 9 percent believe abortion should be banned under any and all circumstances.
Yet, the Supreme Court ruled against established precedent and against the will of the American people to overturn Roe, only to further their own personal religious beliefs. This is religious extremism, plain and simple, inflicted upon a religiously diverse nation that is supposed to be governed under the principle of separation between church and state. It is truly astonishing and alarming to see how far the nation’s principles have fallen.
The overturning of Roe means that abortion will be all but banned in nearly half of the states. Women’s healthcare will suffer as a result of this irresponsible and shameful Supreme Court decision. Just imagine, if physicians know they may go to prison many years because they crossed the line – say, by ending a pregnancy that endangered the life of the mother – then doctors will go nowhere near that line and consequently many women will likely die.
This Court decision will also have ripple effects that go well beyond abortion. The ruling dismisses 50 years of Supreme Court precedence, and in doing so it undermines the right to privacy and personal autonomy which has been used as the backbone of Roe and other rulings, and raises concerns over the future of other civil rights legislation, including same-sex marriage and relationships, access to contraception, and more, as explicitly cited by Clarence Thomas in his opinion.
Tragically, overturning Roe v. Wade and banning abortion in a number of states, predominantly across the South, will not stop abortions, but only restrict access to them and make them unsafe. Abortion access should not be a privilege granted only to the wealthy or well-connected, who will always have the resources to travel for abortion care and/or take time off of work to do so.
Indeed, it is low-income and marginalized people who will be the most impacted—the mother with two children who already struggles to put food on the table; the underage victim of incest who should not be forced to carry the burden imposed upon them by their rapist and whose body is not developed enough to carry a pregnancy; the transgender man who already faces a heightened risk of violence just for being transgender, and for whom pregnancy can exacerbate gender dysphoria; the woman whose desperately-wanted pregnancy is putting her life at risk due to sepsis, placental abruption, or some other condition; and more.
Some anti-abortion advocates speak about the “consequences” of becoming pregnant, as in “If a girl gets pregnant, she must face the consequences.” What cruelty, to speak of a potential human life as a consequence—to the prospective parent and to the future child itself. Using a living person as “punishment” for another person’s actions will cause a great emotional and financial burden on the parent, and for the child, it is even worse—to grow up in a home unwanted and unloved causes untold emotional trauma for a child, which impacts their emotional well-being throughout adulthood as well.
This sick and twisted mindset of the six conservative Supreme Court Justices only damages people, and for what? Sadly, it is clear that for many on the right, the cruelty is the point. The people impacted by abortion bans will be pushed further into poverty, deteriorated health, and worse.
The American people cannot and must not stand for this appalling act and never cease to protest make their voices heard to ensure that at a minimum the individual states will be far more prudent and commit to protect women’s right where the Supreme Court failed miserably.
The other contemptable ruling of the Supreme Court relates to gun control, especially egregious in the wake of recent mass shootings that have claimed the lives of 67 Americans and injured a further 265 in the past month alone. In this case the Court struck down a century-old New York law requiring those seeking to carry firearms in public to demonstrate need. The law was overturned with Justice Clarence Thomas writing the majority opinion, arguing that the provision was inconsistent with the Second Amendment.
In other words, at a time when the country is literally consuming itself with gun violence, when mass shootings have reached epidemic proportions, when gun violence is the leading cause of death among children in this country, the Supreme Court has decided to make it easier for people to carry guns in public. And this ruling will not affect New York alone: many states have similar laws on the books, and they are all now scrambling to revise these laws so that they are honor the Court’s ruling while maintaining restrictions wherever possible.
To grasp just how epidemic mass shootings have become in this country: since the shooting rampage in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, which left twenty-two dead, there have been 82 mass shootings. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as an incident in which at least four victims are shot (injured or killed), not including the shooter. On Saturday, May 28 alone there were five mass shootings, which left two dead and twenty people injured. The very next day, Sunday, May 29, there were seven mass shootings, which left four dead and thirty-five people injured. Since Uvalde, there have been 64 school incidents involving guns.
The United States is a country inundated with guns (with over 120 firearms for every 100 citizens): is it any wonder that rarely a day goes by without a mass shooting somewhere? We have grown to accept gun violence as an ineliminable feature of daily life in America, and that perhaps is the greatest tragedy of all. If we grow numb to this horror and shame, we will never mitigate the scourge of mass shootings and other forms of gun violence.
The Supreme Court has been politized and lost its credibility and its responsibility to render justice. It is time to revisit the process of appointing Supreme Court Justices to ensure that the highest Court in the land is apolitical, fair, and just. Every sensible American should be disgusted by these two infamous Supreme Court rulings that will endanger the lives of countless Americans, stain the Court’s reputation for decades to come, and sadly put America to shame.
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a retired professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies for over 20 years.