Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, completely ignoring stare decisis in so doing. Justice Thomas took it a step further, opening the door for challenges to such issues as the rights to contraception and same-sex marriage.
For those without a legal background, these issues can seem entirely disconnected to each other. Which makes it seem like fears are overblown when it comes the future of these rights. Fully delving into the legal analysis linking these issues could be an article on its own (and probably a bit pedantic for many). But in essence: Roe v. Wade essentially was decided as a “right to privacy” issue. (Basically, it wasn’t so much that you have a right to an abortion; you have a right to privacy. An abortion is a medical procedure, and your medical procedures are nobody else’s goddamn business.)
Why is this important? Well, for a couple of big reasons. First of all, the “right to privacy” can and/or does extend to numerous other issues. You’ve probably heard about the fact that HIPAA ensures the right to privacy when it comes to your medical records. (It doesn’t exactly mean what a lot of politicians, talking heads on television, and Internet lawyers think it means but, again, that could be an entirely separate article.) But think about all the other areas of life in which you might feel entitled to a certain amount of privacy – from your Internet activity to the person you love to your favorite sexual positions. If anyone tried to legislate against any of that (or to gain access to information about any of that), arguing you have a fundamental right to privacy might be your best (or even only) legal recourse.
So whether or not people see the connection, the fact the door was opened to overturn the concept of a “right to privacy” is actually a pretty huge deal. Particularly since on of the Supreme Court justices even suggested challenges could or should be brought against such issues as same-sex marriage and the right to contraception. Justice Thomas isn’t just a random person on the Internet (like me). He’s one of the people who would be ruling on any such issues that came before the Supreme Court.
Imagine if your coworkers were told they should bring forth any complaints, big or small, about you and swore you’d get fired if they made so much as a single complaint. It would be one thing if it was some idiot on Twitter making that promise. It would be another thing if that promise was coming from your boss.
So that’s the first big reason why yesterday’s ruling matters. The second big reason (for the purposes of this article, at least – legally speaking, this is just scratching the surface) comes down to something called “substantive due process.” I know this sounds boring. Just stick with me for a little bit longer.
Substantive due process comes down to the principle that we have certain fundamental rights, even if they’re not explicitly given by the U.S. Constitution. And, honestly, if you think about it, that makes sense. The Founding Fathers couldn’t possibly imagine the invention of the Internet. So they couldn’t possibly debate the question of whether we should have a right to privacy when it comes to the Spock/Dean Winchester smut you post on Tumblr.
And, yes, the right to such things as contraception and interracial/gay marriage are substantive due process issues.
So, Roe v. Wade matters, as a legal matter. Even outside the concept that I have a right to my own goddamn body. And given that LGBTQ+ issues are still controversial, there’s no chance on this green Earth that a challenge against same-sex marriage isn’t being drafted in some state legislatures as you read this article.
So here are some places you can donate if you’re as concerned about yesterday’s ruling as you should be:
If you search locally, there are probably numerous organizations in your area fighting to protect your rights. However, as a friendly reminder, you should always check to ensure a charity is legitimate before donating.