Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and the Fight for Reproductive Freedom

| Reproaction

By: Jessica Ensley

It’s no secret that access to abortion in the United States is dwindling. As access to in-clinic abortion care becomes scarcer, now more than ever we need someone like Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson serving on the highest court in the land.

In 1973, Roe v. Wade affirmed the constitutional right to abortion as part of the right to privacy. Roe created a trimester framework, saying that states could no longer ban abortions in the first trimester. [1] In the second trimester, Roe outlined the states could regulate but not ban abortion. Finally, at the point of viability, the Roe decision said states could regulate or ban abortion except in order to preserve the health of the pregnant person. Abortion access is a human right, and Roe’s framework should be considered the floor when it comes to building proper access, not the ceiling. Unfortunately, rights and access are crumbling, with the first strike hit in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992, [2] and many cuts since. In particular, abortion funding bans and state abortion bans have disproportionately hurt people of color. Now, the imperfect floor of Roe is close to collapsing all together.

Right now, the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is awaiting decision by the Supreme Court. The case concerns a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi, in which that state has directly called for Roe to be overturned. [3] The case will be decided this spring or summer, and with a conservative court majority, looks like it will be successful in turning back the clock on legal abortion access. This decision will likely embolden more states to restrict access to abortion care. [4] In 2021 alone, on a state and local level, the U.S. enacted more than 100 abortion restrictions. [5]

If Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination is confirmed, she will serve on the Supreme Court after Dobbs is already decided and an expected new legal landscape regarding abortion is in place. The 6-3 conservative majority the court hold will stay the same, yet now more than ever we need fierce, progressive judges to hold the line on human rights, and to, through their questioning, dissents, and judicial action, pave the way for future generations to reclaim the rights that should have been ours all along.

Jackson has never ruled on an abortion case directly, but she has taken several actions that stand up for reproductive freedom: In 2001, she co-wrote an amicus brief in support of a buffer zone at abortion clinics. [6] Buffer zones help to prevent anti-abortion protestors from harassing patients seeking health care at a clinic. As a district judge in 2018, she ruled against the Trump administration when they cut funding to a teenage pregnancy prevention program. [7] That same year, Jackson ruled in favor of grantees in a class action lawsuit challenging the funding cut. [8]

It is clear that as egregious anti-abortion laws make their way up the court system, we need a strong advocate for reproductive freedom on the highest court, and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson deserves a swift confirmation to be that needed voice.


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