Pennsylvania voters may well decide who becomes the next president. As President Donald Trump names his choice for the United States Supreme Court to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, many women in Philadelphia are bracing themselves.
They’re preparing for a Supreme Court with three Trump appointees to set off a generation of conservative decisions, a legacy long outlasting the presidency itself.
“I think if a conservative judge is in that seat, everything will be reversed,” said Brie Golphin, who participated in the March to End Rape Culture Saturday in Philadelphia. “Roe v. Wade, protections for LGBT people, I think all the things that happened in the last 10 years and more, it’s all just gonna go to waste.”
On Saturday, Trump announced his nomination for 48-year-old Amy Coney Barrett, a Metairie, Louisiana native whose time on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has earned her a reputation as a favorite among conservatives.
Ginsburg’s vacancy plunges the Supreme Court and its potential to make landmark decisions about health care, abortion access and the outcome of the presidential election into the limelight in an election year whose life and death repercussions already seemed too many.
There are a few ways that the potential for a 6-3 conservative majority on the court could sway voters. Assuming Senate Republicans have the votes to confirm Coney Barrett, which it appears they do, they could wait to push the nomination through until after the election, regardless of its outcome, in an effort to mobilize conservative voters to come out the polls.
Alternatively, Republicans could move more quickly in an attempt to swiftly secure the seat before the election. That route could render the Supreme Court vacancy from being a factor in voters’ decision-making since the justice would have already been selected, and Democrats have yet to threaten court-packing or other judicial consequences that would negate the effects of a swift confirmation hearing.
A conservative majority would likely mean an end to the Affordable Care Act, which Donald Trump has vowed to dismantle since he took office. The case challenging it is scheduled to be heard by the high court immediately after the general election in November.
“Especially with the coronavirus impacting Black and brown communities at disproportionate rates, if we didn’t have the Affordable Care Act, I really can’t imagine what would have happened,” Golphin said. ”The death toll would’ve been much higher.”
The 6-3 conservative tilt would also open the door for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, which would effectively send abortion laws back to the states to decide.
Two protesters outside of a Philadelphia abortion clinic said the way they were voting would not be affected by the vacancy. One, who did not offer her name, said she was a single-issue voter, and Trump was already the only candidate whose anti-abortion position aligned with her own. The other protester, Marlene Downing, agreed.
“Even before the Supreme Court nomination, I vote based on my beliefs and Christian values and that’s’ it,” she said.
Coney Barrett has indicated an anti-abortion stance in several of her rulinigs during her time as a federal judge. In 2018, she voted to rehear an Indiana law requiring that a fetus’s remains be cremated, and another that girls under 18 would need parental permission when seeking an abortion. Both laws had been struck down previously for violating a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. Coney Barrett referenced abortion as “always immoral” in a court decision, and noted the late Antonin Scalia, for whom she clerked, as a role model on the court.
Tamar Anderson, who works with the Racial Justice Organizing Committee in Philadelphia, said she was also concerned about what this would mean for what is likely to be a very close presidential election, whose winner could be decided by an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots. Trump has noted twice in the past week that he will not agree to a peaceful transition of power if the election does not work in his favor, and Anderson worries that a conservative court will only support that stance.
“The nomination seals the deal for all the other national nominations he’s made across federal courts to disrupt the election in November,” she said. “If we don’t have the courts, we don’t have shit.”
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