Monday was a good day for women at the Supreme Court. The Court announced its decision in Voisine v United States, which kept women safe and in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstadt which reaffirmed a right and made them safer. Let’s explore.
In Voisine the Court upheld a 1996 federal law that extended the prohibition of firearms possession from former felons to those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes. (In full disclosure I sit on the Board of Safe Space, a non-profit dedicated to fighting domestic violence and sexual assault, so I am passionate about this topic.) I am especially thankful for this decision for two main reasons. In helping victims of domestic abuse we see an escalation of violence that all too often culminates in a fatal shooting incident. Of late we are seeing that a disproportionate number of mass shooters have a history of domestic abuse. The most recent was the perpetrator in the Pulse nightclub incident which, at last report, claimed 49 lives.
The vast majority (but not all) victims of domestic violence are female. While not all domestic abuse involves physical acts of violence (the majority does) men who beat women certainly do not need guns.
This was a 6-2 decision with and odd couple of Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting. Sotomayor joined Thomas in looking at some legal technicalities while Thomas continued on his own about some factors that were not germane to this particular case.
The more publicized decision was in Whole Woman’s Health. In it the Court declared Texas’ anti-choice HB2 law (not to be confused with North Carolina’s HB2) to be unconstitutional. This law was a sham and a waste of taxpayers’ money from the start! If you remember it took two special sessions of the Texas Legislature to get it passed, was the subject of then Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster, was clearly unconstitutional from the get-go and was simply a springboard from which then Texas Governor Rick Perry could launch his second (and equally unsuccessful) presidential bid.
The law imposed a series of unnecessary and purposely cumbersome restrictions on the physicians who performed abortions and the facilities they operated in. The right wing radicals aided by the Republicans were attempting to do an end run around Roe v Wade which they have unsuccessfully tried to overturn for over 40 years now. They actually welcomed a Supreme Court challenge in the hopes of overturning Roe. As it worked out, in a 5-3 decision the Court saw through their façade and relied on several previous decisions to set further legal precedent guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose.
Predictably Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. They were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts. I may be completely incorrect, but I wonder how Roberts would have voted if his were the deciding vote.
Many women have and will be continued to be harmed because of the facilities that close in Texas in the three years it took to litigate this matter. There are similar laws in many other red states and it will take time to nullify them all. Victims of domestic violence are still being gunned down. However with Monday’s Court decisions there is light at the end of the tunnel and it was a good day for the ladies of America.
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