Roe v Wade, gone. Just like that, five males and one woman decided they could control women’s bodies and force them to give birth against their will. Fundamentalist certainty and self-righteousness, so much a part of the American ethos, are threatening to undermine what this country was supposed to be grounded upon: personal liberty. Earlier in the week, the Supreme Count struck down NY legislation to restrict the open carry of firearms. And we can expect more from this court, as they likely will soon decide who we can love and who we can marry. Indeed, as reported in Saturday’s NY Times The Morning, Clarence Thomas explicitly stated his intention to ban access to contraception and to remove protections for same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships. Lastly, the SCOTUS is poised to strike down the government’s ability to regulate our environment.
In short, the SCOTUS seems hellbent to become the last say in US public policy. Today we review these decisions and looming decisions and consider the implications for NM. Let’s begin with Roe v Wade.
The court’s decision issued yesterday is the culmination of a generational conservative campaign to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established abortion rights. The three conservative justices whom Donald Trump appointed to the court supplied the votes to finally do so
“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.
Though Alito cautioned that the ruling should not be seen as going beyond abortion, one justice in the majority — Clarence Thomas — wrote separately that the court should also overturn protections on access to contraception, same-sex relations and same-sex marriage.
Roe’s fall is a political and social earthquake, one that Americans alternately celebrated and mourned. “I cannot think of a precedent for this in our modern history, where you have an individual civil right that people depend on that has been rolled back after 50 years,” said my colleague Emily Bazelon, who writes about abortion access and the court.NY Times The Morning
As Roxanne noted in our Alert sent yesterday morning, the SCOTUS Roe v Wade decision underscores the importance of who sits in the Governor’s office and who controls the Roundhouse. We can’t afford to let Ronchetti and his ilk take the Roundhouse and the Governor’s office. The thought is terrifying. With our current legislature and Governor, we have some level of access and influence. But take a moment to reflect on advocacy during Susana Martinez’s era. Ronchetti would be worse. So, please reach out to your progressive friends and beg them to look past the ETA, hydrogen, and an appointed PRC and to remember abortion protected, cannabis legalized, free college and pre-school, and having a governor with the courage to shut things down and require masks to protect us.
SCOTUS Won’t Allow Gov’t to Protect Us From Guns Either
While most everyone is focused on the Roe v Wade decision, it was not the only momentous decision published this week. The Supreme Court also struck down a NY law restricting the right to openly carry an armed weapon. From the Guardian’s “US supreme court overturns New York handgun law in bitter blow to gun-control push”:
The US supreme court has opened the door for almost all law-abiding Americans to carry concealed and loaded handguns in public, after the conservative majority struck down a New York law that placed strict restrictions on firearms outside the home.The Guardian’s “US supreme court overturns New York handgun law in bitter blow to gun-control push”
Apparently, the Court feels that while they must protect a fetus, they can’t abide a government trying to protect living adults and children from the insane proliferation of weapons promoted by the gun industry. President Biden weighed in on the decision.
“Since 1911, the state of New York has required individuals who would like to carry a concealed weapon in public to show a need to do so for the purpose of self defense and to require a license. More than a century later, the United States supreme court has chosen to strike down New York’s long-established authority to protect its citizens.”The Guardian’s “US supreme court overturns New York handgun law in bitter blow to gun-control push”
The decision to overturn NY’s open carry law sends a message — this SCOTUS appears to believe that government should play no role in protecting its citizens, as more decisions are viewed as coming. (The article cited below was published the day before Roe was overturned.)
“As soon as Friday, it is expected to undermine or remove the right to abortion, guaranteed since 1973, and to reduce the federal government’s ability to cut emissions contributing to the climate crisis.The Guardian’s “US supreme court overturns New York handgun law in bitter blow to gun-control push”
The expected decision on the EPA’s constitutional right to regulate emissions was not announced on Friday. But it is hard to be optimistic. From another NY Times piece, “Republican Drive to Tilt Courts Against Climate Action Reaches a Crucial Moment“:
Within days, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision that could severely limit the federal government’s authority to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants — pollution that is dangerously heating the planet….But it’s only a start.
The case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, is the product of a coordinated, multiyear strategy by Republican attorneys general, conservative legal activists and their funders, several with ties to the oil and coal industries, to use the judicial system to rewrite environmental law, weakening the executive branch’s ability to tackle global warming.
Coming up through the federal courts are more climate cases, some featuring novel legal arguments, each carefully selected for its potential to block the government’s ability to regulate industries and businesses that produce greenhouse gases.”NY Times, “Republican Drive to Tilt Courts Against Climate Action Reaches a Crucial Moment“:
So, one moment the Supreme Court throws out federal protections ensuring access to abortion and indicates that it is up to states to do this. And then in the NY gun case, the Court asserts states can’t implement gun violence prevention legislation. With the SCOTUS about to rule that the Federal gov’t has no authority to regulate emissions or protect the environment, they appear to be hell bent on dismantling government’s capacity to govern.
Given the NY gun legislation ruling and the anticipated emissions control legislation, could SCOTUS undermine any 2023 effort in the NM state legislature to ban the sale of automatic weapons or limit emissions.? Would such a ban remain in law only until the Supreme Court could get their hands on it?
Certainly, as long as the conservative majority remains in place, NM and other states will need to anticipate the likelihood of some progressive legislation being reversed by the SCOTUS. But there is also another threat posed by this court. They are clearly no longer a court to be relied upon to protect our civil or environmental rights. This means maintaining a solid hold on the Governor’s office and both state legislative chambers is more important than ever or we could live in a state that bans abortion, reinstates the death penalty, and reverses four years of important legislative advances, with no SCOTUS to protect us.
When Trump was elected, we knew his biggest and most eunduring threat would be Supreme Court appointments. And now, three picks later, and with all three of his appointees voting to overturn Roe v Wade, the SCOTUS has become the most dangerous institution in America. It will take years to fix it. It is going to be very rough going, altering the composition of the court, as Trump’s three picks are right wing fundamentalists and they are young. To add more justices to the Supreme Court would require a solidly blue Senate and House, and a President willing to act boldly to protect America. So, we may have a very rough few years. In one day this court told America that the Federal government cannot protect a woman’s right to make her own health and reproductive decisions, while also stating that states have no right to protect us from gun violence.
June 24 should go down in history as Black Friday. The judicial branch in general and the SCOTUS in particular is becoming the most powerful branch of government, capable of reversing executive and legislative decisions at the local, state, and federal levels, decisions generally crafted to protect Americans. And the SCOTUS is looking increasingly like a fundamentalist Christian version of a Taliban tribunal.
Hang on, we are in for a rough few years — unlike the last 6 which have been such a walk in the park, right? Thankfully, we live in a state where Democrat control of the Governor’s office and both chambers of the legislature has enabled passage of important legislation, protecting a woman’s right to choose, legalizing cannabis, providing free college and high quality early childhood education. In November, we need to protect those gains.
In solidarity & hope,
Paul & Roxanne
P.S. Hang on. We are gonna need each other, as we have a state to protect.