Originally published at Desis for Progress
By Anisha Singh
Whether it was healthcare, gun violence prevention, reproductive health, workers’ rights, environmental justice, or fighting corruption, we have watched the Supreme Court come to our rescue or roll back decades of progress. In just the last week of this year’s Supreme Court term, three 5–4 decision cases turned back decades of progress for our community and country. The Muslim Ban was upheld, unions were weakened, and anti-abortion centers were strengthened. To add insult to injury, the deciding vote in these cases was none other than President Donald Trump’s previous Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who took a vacancy stolen from President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland.
That is why the current Supreme Court vacancy fight is the most important fight of our lifetime. At the end of this year’s Supreme Court term, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. While many of his opinions were harmful, Kennedy voted for marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act, deeming him a moderate conservative. There is no question that a Trump nominee in his place would sit on the court for 30–40 years and drastically shift the Supreme Court radically to the right, and undo our progress.
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump made clear the litmus tests he would put judges through before they were nominated to the Supreme Court. Several of the most alarming are that he would expect loyalty, that they would dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and overturn Roe v. Wade.
And sure enough, President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh, a D.C. elitist who would be loyal to Trump beyond any of the other potential judges on his list. This is a disturbing quality, given the daily revelations in the current FBI investigation against the President. Kavanaugh has said that a sitting President cannot be criminally indicted and can hire or fire a special counsel whenever he wants. On healthcare, Kavanaugh dissented when the D.C. Court upheld the ACA and criticized the Supreme Court’s previous ruling on preserving the ACA. On reproductive justice, Kavanaugh has shown he does not respect a woman’s right to make choice about her own body. He praised the dissent in Roe v. Wade, tried to stop a young woman from accessing an abortion, and he once ruled that it’s fine to force people with disabilities to undergo elective surgeries without their consent.
We are at a time when the President of the United States and the Senate majority have attacked our communities and other communities of color from all angles, whether turning a blind eye when hate crimes are committed against our brothers and sisters, separating and deporting families, rescinding DACA, or cutting down legal immigration. How we organize, speak up and react in this moment could change that as more and more of the immigration and civil rights violations by this administration and Congress end up in the courts.
The loss of a woman’s right to choose and the ACA equally impact our community. Purvi Patel is an Indian American woman who was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison in Vice President Mike Pence’s state of Indiana for having an abortion at home due to an Indiana feticide law. Luckily, the case was later overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals. If her conviction had not been overturned, she would have been the first woman in America to have been convicted and sentenced on a feticide law. We expect to see similar cases that undermine abortion rights land in the Supreme Court, and if Kavanaugh is confirmed, then women like Purvi would be criminalized for wanting autonomy.
On healthcare, one year ago, Congress failed to dismantle the ACA legislatively. It is a matter of time before the issue is brought up in the judiciary, impacting millions of Americans nationwide. Before the ACA, one in every six AAPI individuals was uninsured. But after just the first round of open enrollment, 721,000 AAPIs got coverage.
The Supreme Court vacancy nomination and confirmation process is simple: The President nominates, and the U.S. Senate confirms. Both branches are currently run by the same political party which leaves the chances of bipartisanship for a fair hearing and vote slim. Last year, our community spoke out and called on Congress to protect the Affordable Care Act, and despite all odds and a lack of power in government, we were able to preserve healthcare in this country. We must use that same energy to call our Senators to fight for our lives once again. There is too much at stake and younger generations who did not elect Trump as their President are counting on us to protect our courts from his harmful nominee.
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