The Supreme Court Won’t Save Us: Fundamental Freedoms on the Line in the States

This image shows a graphic of a piece of semi crumpled paper with the text “The Supreme Court Won’t Save Us:” The last three words are underlined in red. A red arrow points from the paper to words next to it that appear to be written in red marker reading “Fundamental Freedoms on the Line in the States.” This is all over a red to black gradient background.

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, they didn’t just eviscerate federal protections for abortion access – they opened the door to completely undermining a number of our most personal rights and freedoms that were constructed on the same legal precedent as Roe. The far-right Justice Clarence Thomas made that explicit in his concurring opinion, writing that the justices “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” That’s legal shorthand for overturning the right to birth control, same-sex relationships, and marriage equality. Republican state legislators heard that message loud and clear and have quickly gotten to work undermining many of our previously established rights in hopes that the Trump-stacked Supreme Court will roll progress back even further, solidifying state legislatures as the frontline in the fight for Americans’ freedoms.

This image shows a map of the United States under the title "Abortion Bans in the States" and the source "Kaiser Family Foundation" is cited against a red gradient background. 14 states are marked red to denote that they have passed near total bans on abortion. 4 states are marked orange to denote abortion bans for anyone between 6 to 12 weeks of pregnancy. 7 states are marked pink to denote abortion bans for anyone between 15 and 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Legislatures in almost every Republican-led state enacted laws to ban or restrict abortion after the fall of Roe, fueling the already record-high maternal mortality rate and causing hospitals in red states to close their maternity wards permanently. Now, many are turning their attention to further limiting access to reproductive health care. In Georgia, Missouri, and, most notably, Alabama, Republicans have passed fetal personhood laws that threaten access to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and contraception. And even though Justice Thomas made it clear that access to birth control would be next on the chopping block, Republicans in state after state have refused to codify protections into law. One Arizona Republican legislator even chastised women and later voted down protections for contraception, saying, “Bayer company invented aspirin. Put it between your knees.” Another Republican legislator in Michigan floated passing a law banning the most popular form of birth control in the United States because it “makes you fat.” 

But Republicans aren’t limiting their attacks to reproductive freedom and care – they’re going after the health care and bodies of trans-Americans as well. Wyoming is one of many states where a GOP majority pushed through reckless legislation to outlaw gender-affirming care for minors, defying medical experts and mental health advocates who have stressed that these bans put vulnerable kids in danger. And Republicans don’t plan to stop with children. State legislators from Ohio and Michigan have made it clear that their intention is to eventually ban gender-affirming health care for adults as well, a complete violation of Americans’ right to privacy and bodily autonomy.

This image shows a map of the United States under the title “Attacks on Gender Affirming Care in the States” The source “Human Rights Campaign” is cited under the title. The map has 24 states filled in with red to denote that they have passed laws to ban gender affirming care for trans people in some way. All of this is over a red to black gradient background.

These attacks on trans health care come at a time of widespread assault on the entire LGBTQ+ community, led by right-wing extremists who are fueled by their vocal allies on the U.S. Supreme Court. This year alone, Republican state legislators have introduced nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills. Under the guise of “religious rights,” Republicans in Georgia recently passed a bill opening the door to egregious discrimination – from denying queer couples the ability to adopt children and access child care to refusing hotel rooms for LGBTQ+ folks. In Tennessee, Republicans just passed a law permitting public officials to refuse to perform marriages that go against their personal beliefs, allowing couples to be turned away based on their race, national origin, religion, or sexual orientation. And in Iowa, Republicans have openly mulled an outright ban on same-sex marriage, which could create the pathway for the Supreme Court to completely overturn the Obergefell decision that Justice Thomas so wants to see tossed. 

In addition to passing discriminatory laws, Republican state legislators are also deploying the tactic of inaction, refusing to repeal outdated anti-sodomy laws and same-sex marriage bans that could once again kick in should the Supreme Court reverse its previous decisions. That exact crisis unfolded after the fall of Roe in states like Wisconsin, where Republicans continue to block the repeal of an 1849 abortion ban – passed before women could even vote – that’s caused chaos and confusion in the courts.

This image shows a graphic of a scrap of paper with a quote pulled from the text of the blog reading "State Legislatures are now unequivocally the battlegrounds where our liberties are won and lost." The second half of the sentence is underlined in red marker. This is over a red to black gradient background.

Meanwhile, every single Democratic trifecta has passed protections for abortion rights and LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination. Some states like California and Maryland aren’t just defending the rights of their constituents – they’re also turning their states into safe havens for others, passing laws to shield visiting patients from being punished for traveling to receive an abortion or gender-affirming care. 

State legislatures are now unequivocally the battlegrounds where our liberties are won and lost. It’s critical to have state Democrats on the frontlines defending our rights, because the Supreme Court has made it very clear that they are not coming to save us. In fact, they’ve proven time and again that they are willing to roll back established precedents and throw everyday Americans under the bus. Remember: the Court’s decision to overturn Roe began with a 15-week abortion ban that GOP legislators passed in Mississippi – but would soon have devastating repercussions nationwide. The best way to protect ourselves and our neighbors is to stop the GOP from passing unpopular and unconstitutional laws in the first place by kicking them out of power in the states. In 2022, Democrats flipped four chambers blue, securing the rights and freedoms of an additional 30 million Americans. This year, we have a plan to continue building Democratic power in the states – a reality that will have lifesaving consequences for millions.

Join our movement to secure Democratic power in the states.