USA: Supreme Court rulings on abortion, guns and climate are just the beginning of reversals

recent polarization

The last time the Supreme Court was relatively ideologically homogeneous was in the 1960s, when it enacted some of its most progressive reforms, recalls Neal Devins, a law expert at William & Mary University. During the presidency of Judge Earl Warren (1953-1969), the temple of the law changed the daily lives of millions of Americans, ending racial segregation, strengthening the power of the federal state, and laying the groundwork for the 1973 decision that made abortion a right for all American women.

Earl Warren’s court was vehemently criticized by conservatives, just as the left today attacks the work of conservative John Roberts. But, unlike today, judges did not necessarily decide the most crucial decisions according to their supposed political affinities. Five of the seven judges who supported the 1973 decision to extend abortion rights to all American women were, for example, nominated by Republicans. In today’s Supreme Court, understanding between the two camps is much rarer.

positive discrimination

The conservative bloc chaired by John Roberts is also distinguished by its deep conviction that the Supreme Court has, in the past, agreed to examine issues it should not have to decide. This is the argument that judges used to justify canceling the right to abortion, claiming that it was up to voters in each American state to decide this social issue.

The court also held that it was up to Congress, not an independent government agency, to set regulatory standards, such as limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Critics accuse lawmakers of deliberately ignoring reality in the country, with American states so deeply divided, from progressive California to conservative Wyoming.

The Supreme Court also knows that Congress, which struggles to enact major reforms on social issues, “doesn’t work,” said Richard Lazarus, a law professor at the prestigious Harvard University. However, the court “threatens the State’s ability to ensure the health and well-being of its people, at a time when the United States and all nations of the world face the greatest environmental challenge in history,” he laments.

It seems unlikely that the court’s conservative bloc will slow down the onslaught that has just been launched. The judges agreed to examine a number of potentially pivotal cases at the start of the school year, mainly related to positive discrimination and the way elections are regulated.

After 50 years of waiting, conservatives “have the opportunity to take a radically different course” for the country, says Professor Wermiel. “They won’t let this chance slip away.”

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