Progress in Peril

How Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death may undo years of judicial precedent

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Photo courtesy of Everyday Health

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death was a loss felt throughout the United States. She leaves behind an exceptional judicial legacy and a long career marked by influential court rulings and barrier shattering achievements.
Justice Ginsburg’s death came as a shock to the world and has left many Americans wondering what will happen next? With the national election mere weeks away and the President seeking to fulfill his pledge of filling seats on the court, anyone could have predicted what would happen next. Following the death of Justice Ginsburg, the Senate Republicans along with the President have continued their plan to subsequently pack the courts and replace Justice Ginsburg. This decision has been met with ample backlash as Democrats and concerned citizens around the U.S do not have a short memory. In 2016, President Obama’s final year in office, the former president nominated Judge Merrick Garland to replace the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalea. Unlike the current judicial situation, President Obama’s nomination was set in place well before the November election. Senate Republicans, who held the majority, blocked the Supreme Court pick with Senator Graham saying, “ I want you to use my words against me. If there is a Republican president in 2016, you can say Lindsey Graham said, let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination. You can use my words against me.” Lindsey Graham’s words were the sentiments of many fellow Republicans and Merrick Garland’s nomination was effectively overturned.
Now, with a very similar situation but a very different administration, the Senate Republicans along with Lindsey Graham have apparently changed that view. This hypocrisy concerns many people as the Senate Republicans seem to only have their party’s interests in mind, rather than the very people who they’re supposed to represent. However, what angers people more is that recent but fundamental progress, marked by landmark Supreme Court rulings such as the Affordable Care Act, Roe v. Wade and the expansion of LGBTQIA+ rights, is potentially in danger. Justice Ginsburg played a pivotal role in helping this progress come about yet her legacy and her accomplishments are now at risk as the new Conservative majority seeks to replace her with Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Judge Barrett is quite likely further right than Chief Justice Roberts and while she was an appeals court judge, she had several rulings on hot button topics such as Roe v. Wade, Second Amendment Rights and made comments about the legality of the Affordable Care Act. According to TIME magazine, “she demonstrated a willingness to curtail the rights held in the landmark decision Roe v. Wade … In writings before she took the bench, she criticized the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.” Once Amy Coney Barrett is on the Supreme Court bench, the court will have a strong conservative majority. If the court ruled the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional, millions of Americans would be taken off of their healthcare plans and left to fend for themselves in a privatized healthcare system that has become increasingly expensive and exclusive. Many Americans with pre-existing conditions would be kicked to the curb and left with no insurance coverage. If the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade was threatened individuals could no longer legally seek out abortions and crucial organizations like Planned Parenthood would most likely have their funding cut. Cuts in Planned Parenthood funding would put essential services such as sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing and treatment, birth control, well-woman exams, cancer screening and prevention, hormone therapy, infertility services and general health care in danger. Needless to say, Justice Ginsburg’s death may be an unwanted turning point for many fundamental services and programs that countless Americans rely on.
Justice Ginsburg’s death and subsequent court replacement will affect the lives of Americans for decades as the conservative majority is the strongest it has been since the mid-20th century. Furthermore, the actions of the Republican party and the hypocrisy they have shown in spite of their stance in 2016 has left Washington and by extent the country, as divided as ever. The potential politicization of the Supreme Court does not only threaten certain services and rights that Americans enjoy but this also threatens the fundamental well-being of our democracy.