We Must Codify Roe and Unstack the Supreme Court


Last Friday, in one of the most dangerous and heartbreaking decisions in a generation, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 to overturn Roe v. Wade and deprive women of the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions.

Notwithstanding this dramatic lurch backward for the country, California will continue to offer reproductive health care and abortions to women in need, and our governor and legislators have already taken steps to support out-of-state individuals requiring care.

But inevitably, this ruling does mean the end of reproductive care for those living in states with restrictive anti-choice laws on the books. It means that women in red states will have to travel thousands of miles to get the care they need, and those who cannot afford to do so will have to go to unthinkable lengths with no guarantee of their well-being. It means more children will be born into families that cannot support them, giving new momentum to the cycle of poverty. And, most tragically, it means women will die for lack of care.

The fact that this opinion did not come as a surprise does not lessen how traumatic this moment is for millions of Americans. For if there is no meaningful right to privacy in the Constitution, and the Supreme Court has no allegiance to precedent, what other rights may be next to fall?

The right to contraception, the right to same-sex relationships and the right to same-sex marriage are now at risk. As Justice Clarence Thomas made clear in his concurring opinion, overturning Roe is just the beginning for this reactionary court.

These efforts to take our country backward have been decades in the making. But they got a major boost when Mitch McConnell denied President Obama the ability to appoint a Supreme Court justice with eight months left in his term, then confirmed Amy Coney Barrett with just eight days left in President Trump’s tenure in office. Having effectively stacked the court with an unrepresentative supermajority in their favor, Republicans in the state legislatures and in Congress can now seek to impose their extremist agenda on generations to come.

If Republicans take back control of the House in November, a nationwide ban on abortion will be first on their agenda. It’s horrifying to consider what could be next.

To avoid this dystopian future – where conservative state legislators make a woman’s health care decisions for her – we must make Roe the law of the land. Congress must codify Roe into law. If that means doing away with filibuster, so be it – that arcane Senate practice has been around for far too long and done far too much damage to stand in the way of women’s healthcare.

And the only remedy to a Supreme Court that is so grossly stacked and imbalanced is to unstack it by expanding its numbers.

Our government is supposed to reflect the will of the majority of our people and that majority wants to keep moving this country forward. America deserves a Supreme Court that protects the rights of our people, not does away with them.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) represents California’s 28th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.