In recent days, the US Supreme Court has made two rulings against the wishes and strongly held opinions of most US citizens.
The first was the ruling against the state of New York’s gun laws. The Supreme Court divined that carrying a concealed handgun in public was a legal right upheld by the US Constitution. The Constitution that I studied in the eighth grade was not only written in the 18th century by white landowning males, but never mentioned concealed handguns or individuals protecting themselves with guns. The constitutional right to bear arms was to protect communities from militarized governmental powers.
This Supreme Court ruling brought to mind the whole handgun debate that was sweeping America back in the early 90s, when I last lived Stateside. This was before semi-automatics were regularly featured in mass shootings. One of the arguments against handguns was that they, unlike hunting rifles, were easy to conceal and therefore the weapon of choice for criminals. Such arguments are still true thirty years later.
Following American news from Europe, I expect to see more murders and more bystanders shot by misguided bullets, just as I expect to see a continuation of mass shootings. These predictions are not only the common-sense views shared by most Americans, but also the expert opinion of criminologists and law enforcement specialists. Yet, the nine members of the Supreme Court, who hold jobs for life and do not need to run political campaigns sponsored by the NRA, seem to be motivated by their own sense of intellectual superiority.
The other ruling against the views of US citizenry and expert opinion – in this case public health workers and medical scientists – was the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Some studies say two-thirds of Americans, others say 85%, support the right to an abortion. That is, the majority of us are aware that most women seeking abortions have already had children and cannot afford to have any more. We also know about abuse and rape and medical conditions that make giving birth untenable, if not dangerous. For the justices on the Supreme Court, the rights of women over their bodies and the health of women are no longer important, nor is the prospect of more children born into poverty and the public health consequences of that.
While many in the media and public figures around the world have been quick to call this decision a ‘step backward’ for women’s rights, this is even worse than that. According to The New Yorker, recent decades have seen some US states create laws that criminalise not only women who have abortions, but those who have had miscarriages and stillbirths that government officials claim were induced by the mother. It’s hard to believe that the Supreme Court justices are unaware of these Gilead-like laws. Apparently, these justices are again acting on their understandings of what is best for society – that is, the subjugation of women. These justices know better than the women themselves, than health workers, than social workers, than medical scientists, than those of us that support the pro-choice movement. The arrogance of it all.
From this side of the pond, I find myself, like many Europeans, shocked and bewildered. Like many Americans who have emigrated from the so-called Land of the Free, I’m grateful that I’m not living there.