By ESME FAIRBAIRN
SANTA FE, N.M. – In a moment in this nation when xenophobia is soaring alongside patriotism, the threat of originalists deciding the future of basic human rights is immediate. Amy Coney Barrett’s originalism is dangerous. Swearing her into the Supreme Court is even more so. Her confirmation is no doubt the beginning of the unraveling of progressives’ hard work and our rights.
I am a part of the fight for progressive citizen-rights in this country. Without a blank ballot, the feasible changes for this task are more than challenging. I am not a citizen of the United States, yet I have lived here for more than 11 years and my voice is one of the only tools I have. We have reached a pivotal point for the future of this country – within months, the rights we have previously fought so hard for could be undone.
Now that Barrett has won this seat, the short-term consequences will appear with the expected rethinking of the Affordable Care Act and the navigation of the legal controversies of next week’s presidential election. Her stances on abortion, same-sex marriage and religious freedoms will affect longer-term decisions by the Supreme Court. But these issues that most have spoken about in the past weeks are just the tip of the iceberg of the harm Barrett’s appointment to the nation’s highest court will soon begin to do.
The dialogue of women against women is frustrating and baffling. The notion that someone in power – and a woman of all people – who is not only apathetic to simple human rights but also in a position to choose how others must navigate those rights is insulting at best.
With Barrett, this dialogue unmistakably surrounds abortion rights. Why is it that human bodies and personal choices are policed by the government? I never understood this as I grew up and, though I now recognize how U.S. laws developed this way, I remain angered and petrified that my choice to get an abortion may soon disappear.
Part of the reason the fight for change and rights is so challenging in this country is due to the impermanence of laws. The back-and-forth nature of our system is unstable and terrifying for millions of people whose rights are constantly on the line. The stark shift from liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg to Amy Coney Barrett perhaps poses the current situation as more ominous.
Barrett now has the influence to repeal next month crucial health care protection in the middle of a pandemic, during discussions around the future of the Affordable Care Act. The sudden denial of health coverage for millions of Americans is a crisis with or without a global pandemic. A further worry is Barrett’s imminent shift to discriminate against human rights in public spaces, health, marriage and education, based on religion.
The constant fear that our rights may not be protected puts pressure on citizens and non-citizens alike. This pressure comes at a time when COVID-19 and misinformation are simultaneous forces of everyday worry and uncertainty.
These strains are exacerbated for those who cannot vote for change or are undocumented. The future decisions of the ACA, Roe v. Wade and same-sex marriage among other policies will be detrimental to the lives of so many in the United States. This is the issue: the Constitution was designed to serve the American citizens, but it does not function this way anymore. The sweeping rulings of the Senate and the Supreme Court have consequences for all.
Barrett’s confirmation, one of the court’s fastest, puts conservatives at a 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court. This speedy turnaround of Barrett’s confirmation highlights President Donald Trump seeking to ensure this imbalance before the results of the election.
The ever-growing divide among citizens and within the Senate and Supreme Court complicates the future of political moves. A fair, bipartisan system no longer exists and won’t for a longtime as each move from either side is viewed as a political scheme made to favor the ruling of one political party over the other.
With the possibility of the Supreme Court deciding the result of next week’s election in a round of legal cases, the majority’s decision will no doubt land in Republican hands. Were this to happen, the future of our progressive moment, for voters and non-voters, will seem incomprehensibly out of reach.
(Written by Esme Fairbairn; Oct. 29, 2020)