Sonia sotomayor Our Reproductive Rights Champion by liz rangel
“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” These were words carefully chosen by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor during Wednesday’s hearing of Mississippi’s latest anti-abortion case. Stench, a strong and unpleasant smell, is highly unlike the other senses we experience because by its nature, it lingers. A stench permeates the room, it travels, and leaves lasting effects on those near it.
Understanding what Justice Sotomayor meant in her use of the word stench is vital to understanding the argument she makes against overturning Roe v. Wade. The lingering sentiment in reference is the dangerous notion that the Supreme Court can become politicized in its governance, even outside of Roe v. Wade and abortion access. Weakening Roe v. Wade –as an effect of appointing a majority of conservative Supreme Court Justices– sends the message that the interpretation of the Constitution hinges on the whims of partisan politics now and evermore.
The Supreme Court serves as a singular voice in our democracy, a voice of reason where all other branches rely on representing the partisan views of the People. This voice can evolve over time--as laws are meant to reflect the ever-changing needs of a country while upholding a consistent set of values. Similarly, the role of a judge relies on objective interpretation of the law, lest they lend themselves for an abuse of power. In the case of the US Supreme Court, its nonpartisan interpretation of the Constitution provides the necessary balance of powers to protect democracy as a whole. This voice is survived not by the individual interests of those judges, but in the Supreme Court’s centuries-long commitment to unwavering objectivity, whereas the alternative rejects its purpose and instead becomes a tool for political misuse.
Justice Sotomayor skillfully defended abortion access in the name of protecting the body’s legitimacy. It was not her first time speaking out in favor of reproductive freedoms, but the arguments she made Wednesday night delineated to the American people what precedent the anti-choice agenda in this country is willing to set. Justice Sotomayor held Mississippi’s feet to the fire in questioning what motives they had for banning abortion access at 15 weeks, beyond a purely religious stance. For the Supreme Court to re-examine a decision like that of Roe v. Wade’s directly after Trump won the presidency on promises to appoint anti-choice Justices would delegitimize the Judicial process entirely. It politicizes and endangers every one of our constitutional rights, including same-sex marriage. Regardless of personal opinion, Justice Sotomayor laid out arguments in defense of abortion access in complete compatibility with her role on the Supreme Court. Justices Thomas and Coney Barrett relied on conjecture and semantics to uphold their values, blinded by power, and unwilling to see the bigger picture. Without a doubt, any changes to Roe v. Wade will put the lives of American women everywhere in danger. But who else is tasked with defending our freedoms?
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