It is the last week of term for the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this month, the court announced decisions about abortion, LGBTQ rights, and voter rights. This week, a narrow majority of justices stripped protections of workers, upheld outwardly racist travel policies, upheld racial partisan gerrymandering, and ruled that openly deceiving people trying to access health care is legal and just.
Abbott v Perez
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to overturn a lower court’s ruling that several congressional districts in the state of Texas were gerrymandered along racial lines. The decision, written by Justice Alito, argued that there was not enough evidence that race was a factor in drawing the districts and that previous decisions which ruled that they were drawn on unconstitutional lines were invalid. In Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent, she wrote that "Minority voters must return to the polls with knowledge that their ability to exercise meaningfully their right to vote has been burdened by the manipulation of district lines specifically designed to target their communities and minimize their political will.” Sotomayor discussed how the court showed a “disregard of both precedent and fact,” that “comes at serious costs to our democracy.” Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan joined the dissenting opinion.
NIFLA v Becerra
NIFLA v. Becerra is a case that challenged a 2015 California law that requires crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to disclose all available medical options and services to pregnant women. Also known as the Reproductive FACT Act, it requires state-licensed crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to inform women of the availability of free and low-cost comprehensive family planning, prenatal care, and abortion services. Unlicensed CPCs, including those that offer pregnancy testing or ultrasound imaging, are required to disclose to all clients that their facilities are not a state-licensed medical facility and have no licensed medical providers who provide or directly supervise the provision of services. Lower courts preliminarily upheld the law in three separate challenges, ruling that the disclosures that CPCs must make do not violate the First Amendment.
On June 26, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court ruling. In an 5-4 opinion written by Justice Thomas, the Court ruled that both the disclosures for licensed and unlicensed centers likely violate their First Amendment rights. Notably, the five-justice majority did so regardless of whether these fake women’s clinics lie to and deceive women. In a strongly-worded dissent, Justice Breyer (joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan) criticized the majority for overlooking the strong women's health considerations behind the FACT Act, and explained that both the modest and factual nature of the required disclosures and the Court’s prior precedents should have rendered the FACT Act constitutional.
Fake women’s clinics divert people from actual health centers that could provide the services or information they want and need. This deception is particularly harmful for communities that already face systemic barriers to health care, including people of color, people with low incomes, and young people. Making one trip to a fake women's health center and then to another that provides the full range of reproductive health care options can delay care, or can prevent people from getting care at all. Shamefully, the Supreme Court ruled that deceiving and lying to people seeking health care is legal and just.
“It is truly outrageous that these laws stand and CPCs can continue to mislead and misinform women. Planned Parenthood will never stop working to keep safe and legal abortion available to those who need it.”- Sarah Stoesz, President of the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund
Trump v. Hawai’i
In another 5-4 decision (the same Justices dissented), the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Trump-Pence administration’s racist, anti-Muslim travel ban. Codifying hate into law, this decision put further institutional backing to the Trump administration’s abhorrent history of anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy. This decision joins a line of rulings history will look back on in shame. The Planned Parenthood community is made up of people from all walks of life -- including immigrants and refugees of all backgrounds and faith communities, including Muslims. Together with our partners leading this fight, Planned Parenthood Action will continue fighting for a country that is welcoming to all. We remain committed to standing with immigrants and refugees.
Janus v AFSCME
Reversing a decades-old precedent, the Supreme Court yet again ruled in a 5-4 decision that public sector workers who opt out of union membership cannot legally be charged any fees for the cost of collective bargaining. For years, many states protected collective bargaining by charging a lower fee to those who opt out of union membership but still benefit from the union’s bargaining activity on behalf of all employees of an organization. Since unions cannot collectively bargain for only some of an organization’s workers, this type of safeguard helped offset the costs of fighting for all worker’s rights, not just those who choose to join a union. Decided along the same lines of the other cases from the last week of the Supreme Court's term, Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion, and Justice Kagan dissented.
The decisions that the court handed down this week illustrate the monumental consequences that the Supreme Court can have on almost any aspect of the law. Unfortunately, these decisions were not the extent of the bad news coming from the Supreme Court. On June 27, 2018, news broke that Justice Anthony Kennedy plans to retire, allowing President Donald Trump to nominate his replacement, and putting abortion rights and access are on the line.
This week’s Supreme Court news proves that it is on us to create the shared future that we all deserve. We must resist. We must persist. And we must vote. The future of our country - and the health, rights, and safety of millions of people - depend on it.