Recent Supreme Court decisions have further divided the United States of America. Whereas the decision to overturn a nearly 50-year-old precedent concludes that the Constitution does not contain a right to privacy (and hence, a woman’s choice to abort), a decision to overturn a 110-year-old New York law concludes that the constitution does contain a right to carry guns outside one’s home. The former is about shifting rights from people to states. The latter is about shifting rights from states to people.
The Court decisions are grounded arguably in the Constitution, yet the same Constitution was in effect when Roe v Wade was decided in 1973 by a Court with a majority of presumably conservative justices appointed by Republican Presidents. When the decision was reaffirmed in a case against Planned Parenthood in 1992, eight of the nine justices on the Court were appointees of Republican Presidents. The current Supreme Court with two thirds of justices appointed by Republican Presidents has eviscerated those prior conservative decisions, citing a historical context; a context that is questionable. In science, new facts emerge, and conclusions change. Here, neither the historical context nor the Constitution has changed. What has changed are the justices who decided to rescind a right and found an interpretation to fit that decision.
While the Supreme Court’s decision to shift the power from women to their states is controversial, that decision would be less of a concern for women, if common sense prevailed. But women know it is politics, and not science that controls decisions about their bodies. Their legitimate concerns include states controlling use of contraceptives, defining life beginning at conception, requiring pregnant women to register and potentially investigating all miscarriages, mandating carrying to full term the unviable, and ultimately taking no responsibility for the financial and health care of women mandated to have children and the children after they are born. Pregnant women need rewards, not threats of punishment! America has one of the highest rates of single-mother households with over 15 million, about a third of whom are food-insecure. With the current sad state of support for those already born and poor, what can be lawfully expected for the welfare of the children mandated to be born?
The decision to upend a New York gun law in the immediate aftermath of mass shootings at Buffalo and Uvalde, while also controversial, would be less of a concern if states enacted sensible gun laws. The State of New York has exactly developed and passed such a commonsense gun law that can serve as a template for other states. Some central aspects of the law include mandatory training, background checks, limitations on ammunition, and prohibition of carrying guns in public places such as subways and into private businesses without consent. The law is not far from the recommendations here.
My hope for this July Fourth is that common sense will prevail in America, even if the recent Supreme Court decisions are not all about the Constitution. Enjoy the holiday weekend!
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