Law & Disorder: The legitimacy of the Supreme Court is dead

Supreme Court building and in front of it is a Justice with a gavel and a scale of justice but with a silhouette of a uterus and a desk name plate with "abortion" on it. Tan background
(JiWon Lee | Daily Trojan)

Content warning: The following article contains mentions of abortion and sexual assault.

If only the Equal Rights Amendment passed back in 1982 — but Congress didn’t want discrimination based on sex to be constitutionally prohibited. And after the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, it seems the Supreme Court doesn’t want that either. 

You would think that since the ratification of the United States Constitution 234 years ago that women would have autonomy over their own bodies by now. Yet, the U.S. has a fondness for regression. Despite the number of words in this article, no number of words can describe my distress. If we cannot trust the highest tribunal in the nation to provide equal, unbiased justice under the law and protect our rights, who are we supposed to trust?

According to CNN Politics, by overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has ruled that there is no longer a federally protected right to abortion — our abortion rights are now in the hands of our states’ governments. In other words, the Supreme Court has greenlit sweeping bans on abortion. While this depends on what state you live in, almost 50% of states already have bans in place, will pass bans or will enact strict regulations against the practice. 

But in restricting abortion, in overturning Roe v. Wade, in controlling women’s bodies, the world isn’t any safer or better. Still suffering under the cruel philosophy of the War on Drugs, we all should know that criminalizing something does not eliminate it from society — it just makes it more dangerous. 

In a nine-year cross-sectional study conducted in Tehran, Iran, researchers found that a “substantial number of induced and illegal abortions throughout the world, especially in developing countries, is resulting in maternal mortality … and a variety of physical and sexual morbidities in different societies.”

Restrictive abortion laws do not reduce abortions; they only increase the number of unintended pregnancies and preventable maternal casualties. Researchers at the World Health Organization, the Guttmacher Institute and several other academic institutes have shown that this statement is not an opinion — it is a fact.

Those seeking an abortion are not criminals. Those who need an abortion should not be left to die. Sexual assault, fetal health problems, maternal health issues or financial instability — if the Supreme Court ruled that the states can force someone to carry a child to term, are state governments prepared to eliminate these issues in order for these unborn children to be cared for? 

If the government wants to take on the responsibility of bringing children into this world, they then have the responsibility to care for said children. But according to the Adoption Network, there are “over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S., 114,556 [of whom] cannot be returned to their families and are waiting to be adopted.” If the states cannot care for these existing children how are they to care for the ones who aren’t even born yet? 

But that’s not the Supreme Court’s job. Their job is to “impartially” interpret the constitution, so let’s take a look at this through a constitutional lens. 

Justice Samuel Alito states in the majority opinion that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences,” before arguing that “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” as he states that abortion presents a profound moral question.

However, the only erroneous decision with detrimental consequences here is that of the current Supreme Court. In bringing morality into the ruling, impartiality went right out the door as the fluidity of morality depends on structural traditions and religious beliefs — all of which wreak havoc on the Supreme Court’s ability to maintain objectivity. Evidently — despite the Sixth Amendment stating we have the right to an impartial jury on both state and federal levels — nonpartisanship can be exempted from the Supreme Court.

Now, if it’s time to heed the Constitution, then let’s do exactly that. But what constitution are you referring to, Justice Alito — that of 1788 or the present-day Constitution that has been amended 27 times? To the originalists who argue that the Constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding “at the time it was adopted,” why does Article V, which outlines the right and procedure of changing the Constitution, exist?

We cannot use the Constitution of 1788, because it is no longer 1788. The Constitution has changed over time because our country needed to change: slavery, discrimination, segregation, sexism — the list goes on and on. For decades, the Supreme Court set precedent and made changes to the Constitution through its decisions in order to protect citizens from unjust harm and imposition on their rights. But following the overturning of 50 years of precedent set by Roe v. Wade, the lives of millions are now at risk and because of this decision, the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is now in flames. Because of this decision, the concept of justice in America isn’t just tainted — it does not exist.

On the topic of precedence, let’s not forget cases such as Skinner v. Oklahoma, wherein the court ruled that Oklahoma’s Criminal Sterilization Act of 1935 was unconstitutional, as the social and biological implications of reproduction and the irreversibility of sterilization operations violated Mr. Skinner’s rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. But strangely enough, the overturning of Roe v. Wade shows the complete opposite, that the social and biological implications of reproduction and the irreversibility of forcing childbirth on a person possess no constitutional infringement. Heaven forbid the government controls a male body, but ostensibly it is permitted to control those with a uterus.

I know this measly article is nothing more than an outlet for my rage and frustration. I’ve learned the hard way that there’s no point in arguing with a brick wall. The ignorant will remain ignorant, and no matter how much evidence you present to them, they will somehow twist it in their favor or reject it altogether. But to those reading this, not all hope is lost. I mean, they only win if we let them, so we will cry so loud they’ll be forced to hear us. 

While the deplorable decision of the Supreme Court majority has taken our federal right to an abortion, the fight for that right under state legislatures is still ongoing. Vote against proposed state constitutional amendments restricting abortions. Vote for representatives and government officials who listen and truly care. Take a pledge to fight for abortion rights. Donate. Protest. Share resources online. Write a silly little article such as this one. Do whatever you can with the resources you have, but whatever you choose to do, don’t stay silent. Your body belongs to no one but yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Contact The National Abortion Federation Hotline at 1-800-772-9100 or visit the following websites for reproductive health services: Planned Parenthood, PlanC, National Network of Abortion Funds, Abortion Care Network.

Helen Nguyen is a rising senior writing about law and social issues in her column “Law & Disorder.” She is also the opinion editor at the Daily Trojan.