Commentary

If abortion rights go, so could gay marriage

May 21, 2019: Pro-choice activists protest on the steps of the Supreme Court after states sought to pass restrictive "heart beat" abortion laws.
May 21, 2019: Pro-choice activists protest on the steps of the Supreme Court after states sought to pass restrictive "heart beat" abortion laws.Photo: Shutterstock

The news this past week was largely dominated by one big political story: Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case which was just argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The outcome, which we’ll know by June next year, could determine whether or not the right to an abortion, which was originally secured by the Supreme Court in their ruling on Roe v. Wade back in 1973, could be overturned after almost 50 years of protecting people’s rights and being used as precedent.

The word precedent is one that has been thrown around a lot during the coverage of Dobbs. Precedent, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances,” has an important role in the judicial system because it ensures that judges make consistent decisions and usually don’t make rulings that are incompatible or confusing with previous ones.

Related: Jen Psaki crushed male conservative journalist who wanted to debate abortion with her

It was largely assumed by many for decades that precedent, in this instance the Supreme Court ruling in Roe, would mean that abortion rights would be protected from future attempts to overturn them.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, during his 2018 Senate confirmation hearings after being nominated by Donald Trump, said that precedent should only be ignored under “rare” circumstances, which led to moderates like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voting to confirm him to the Supreme Court.

Well now it appears Justice Kavanaugh, along with four of his Supreme Court colleagues, are prepared to form an anti-choice majority that would overturn half a century of precedent and allow Mississippi’s abortion ban to go into effect, which would mean the end of the national right to an abortion in America.

This has gigantic political, legal, and personal implications the LGBTQ community and all the minority groups of America as well.

If the precedent of Roe v. Wade, which is considered one of the landmark rulings in American history, is allowed to be overruled, that will likely mean that other rulings affirming the rights of American citizens could get overruled as well, no matter how set in stone they seem or how much controversy and blowback the decision to roll them back might cause.

We could very easily see a reversal of Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 landmark ruling which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. After all, Obergefell was decided by a margin of 5-4 on the Supreme Court, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the deciding vote.

Kennedy is now gone, as are several of the justices who were on the Court at the time this case was decided. The Court has gotten much more conservative and, if a case came in front of them on this issue, could easily overturn precedent and repeal marriage equality.

The fact that a president like Donald Trump, who didn’t win the popular vote, had the opportunity to pick three Supreme Court justices (one of which was appointed to a seat that opened when Barack Obama was still in office) who now will likely take rights away from tens of millions of Americans, shows how broken our system really is.

The only recourse we have is to turn out and vote as largely as we can in the 2022 midterm elections. If we keep the House and Senate majorities next year we have a chance to stifle some of these SCOTUS decisions; if we don’t, the consequences could be catastrophic.

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