The Supreme Court Shake-Up Threatens More Than Abortion

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s exit from the Supreme Court has some advocates worried about the future of Roe v. Wadethe 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. But many also fear a more broad attack on civil rights.

And there’s good reason to be worried; another conservative justice may well be the deciding vote in a challenge to Roe v. Wade that could upend abortion access in the United States as we know it. In addition to these concerns, reproductive rights advocates should be thinking about other issues that may be impacted by a 5-4 conservative split on the court — because this issue is even worse than a question of abortion.

First up is birth control — a highly effective method of reducing the need for abortion in the first place. This is an issue that’s come before the court before, and it likely will again – with questions like whether employers are required to cover birth control in their insurance, whether colleges and universities can exclude contraceptive coverage and whether the government can change regulations like Title X to make it harder to provide contraceptive services.

Included in birth control is emergency contraception — the “morning after pill” — a particular bone of contention with conservatives.

The same kind of health insurance and institutional discrimination could also affect prenatal care, labor and delivery, and post-pregnancy followup. Attacks on the Affordable Care Act have reminded the public that, until very recently, some insurers refused to cover these needs — or treated being a woman as a “pre-existing condition” that allowed them to charge more.

Another issue is LGBTQ adoption and parental rights, including the ability to adopt in open or closed adoptions, as well as to add a non-gestational parent to a birth certificate –  if, for example, lesbian parents want both mothers listed. Same-gender marriage may be legal, but adoption rights are not guaranteed across the U.S. – and some adoption agencies explicitly discriminate against LGBTQ couples. Couples in nontraditional family structures may also struggle to access adoptive parenting rights.

Parenting rights for disabled people, already under threat, could be further jeopardized by a conservative Supreme Court. Some disabled parents are discriminated against because of their disability status, losing custody of their children because courts don’t think they can care for them. If a parent fighting for the right to keep their children pursued a case all the way to the Supreme Court, it could result in a ruling that might devastate the disability community.

Assisted reproductive technology could be under threat too. Parents who wish to conceive this way may face discrimination because of their family structure or because the companies they work for have “religious objections” that allow them to exclude ART from their insurance coverage. Just as some people are fighting for the right to not have children, others may be struggling to build their families.

Sterilization is yet another cause for concern. Christian facilities, like growing Catholic-owned hospital networks, already ban abortion, sterilization and birth control on their premises. If a legal challenge to these policies rises to the Supreme Court, a conservative slate of justices may agree that these facilities have the right to refuse requested care. With Catholic hospitals taking over the health care system, these policies may effectively cut people off from these services by making it impossible to locate them.

Catholic hospitals are also notorious for denying miscarriage care, a practice that endangers the life, health, and future fertility of people in medical crisis. A ruling on these issue could legitimize the practice of refusing to extend services to people dealing with a horrible life experience that can also be a medical emergency.

The bottom line: There’s a lot to be scared of when it comes to reproductive rights and the possible Supreme Court makeup, no matter your political or social inclinations. All of these issues relate to the common right to bodily autonomy and family planning.

When it comes to reproductive health issues, think in the big picture — especially when you’re talking to people you disagree with. If someone’s not worried about Roe v. Wadefor example, ask them how they feel about giving pregnant people access to health care, or helping people get pregnant if they’re having difficulty.

Don’t count on Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine to break ranks with Republicans, either — no matter what the headlines say about her pivotal role in upcoming confirmation hearings. Her comments about a vote on a Supreme Court candidate have been very cagey, with plenty of wiggle room.

While Collins claims that she won’t support a nominee who has “demonstrated hostility” to Roe v. Wadethere are a lot of ways to interpret that statement — and a candidate doesn’t have to be openly hostile to the ruling to pose a risk to reproductive rights.

Photo Credit: Jordan Uhl/Flickr


Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thank you.

Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman9 months ago

I wonder if David F. would have mentioned the ethnicity of the burglars if they had been Caucasian.

Susanne R
Susanne R9 months ago

David F. -- Karen is right! Or do you feel threatened by a strong, intelligent woman?

First of all, I can't out-scream a raving lunatic like Alex Jones (who does what he does for the money he's getting from fans like yourself) or Rush Limbaugh, who's an idiot with an ever-dwindling source of sponsors. And even if I could manage to out-scream Jones, he'd simply hang up on me. That's how he avoids having to deal with the truth. Alex Jones is worth $10,000,000, and he made that fortune by out-screaming and insulting any caller with an opposing point of view who dares to defy him. He dared to claim that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax!!! He's getting richer and richer by using his hateful form of entertainment, i.e., saying what people like you want to hear and want to believe. You're being used.

Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson9 months ago

@David F--REALLY, you tell Susanne to call the insane, crazy, conspirator, Fruitcake Alex Jones, the Freak of Fake News??!! No one could get a word in unless his jaw was wired shut! Are you feebly trying to tell me that private citizens owning guns are the reason El Paso had 5 murders? What a crock! I think you have to give law enforcement just a little credit for that, David! There are thousands upon thousands literally more examples where firearms massacre millions. You want "Fake News" listen to virtually every conservative show out there--they wouldn't know the truth, if it bit them in the A$$ and held on!

Dot A
Dot A9 months ago

Pendulum swings. Let us all hope for the very best. Time will reveal.

John W
John W9 months ago


Shirley P
Shirley Plowman9 months ago


David F
David F9 months ago

Susanne R. If you feel very strongly that the conservatives are doing something wrong to this country, you should try calling a talk radio station like Alex Jones and explain your exasperation.
If you have the ability to keep your emotion under control and be specific, you will understand why Fake News has made you so unnecessarily angry.
Talk show host yearn for liberal callers to argue their side, they always go to the front of the line by-passing conservative callers.

David F
David F9 months ago

Karen Swenson, your overly simplistic logic says: "More guns equal more gun deaths--that is logical fact."
Why don't you explain this:
Only a river and a wall separate El Paso Texas (where concealed guns are prolific and almost everyone owns firearms), and Ciudad Juarez, who in 2010 had more than 3,500 murders.
In the same year, El Paso had five murders according to press reports and government statistics compiled by Molly Molloy, a researcher at New Mexico State University who runs

There are thousands literally more examples where the lack of firearms massacre millions.

David F
David F9 months ago

Susanne R. No wonder you are so misinformed, Pravda is far more accurate than Mother Jones Fake News, specifics abound.

So if you say self preservation to one self and family is not a God given right, then either you believe it is not a right, or that some ruling class or dictator granted you the right to live or be killed.

Firearms are a terrific equalizer between a 100 pound woman and a 250 pound criminal. Women rejoice.