In June 2022, the United States Supreme Court will share its decisions with the public, and there is speculation that many cases will provide historic precedents for the next few years. The court will consider the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health (2022), regarding a Mississippi state law that limits the time a woman can have an abortion to fifteen weeks after the start of her pregnancy. The court must also consider the case of Kennedy vs. Bremerton School District (2022), in which a Washington State football coach led his team in prayer during and after games. The school district asked the coach to stop leading the prayer for fear of liability, and the coach sued under the 1st Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause. Taken separately, these cases seem unrelated, but if the court rules in favor of allowing team prayer and upholding Mississippi’s abortion law, the United States could move away from protecting women. privacy rights in favor of religious expression or free speech. .
When reviewing Supreme Court cases, it is essential to understand how important it is for the Court to uphold its previous decisions. This concept is called Stare Decisis, which is a Latin term meaning “let the decision stand”. Essentially, the court wants to make sure it honors its past decisions to avoid giving the impression that judges are ruling based on their political beliefs.
With this in mind, the Court has already ruled on these two subjects in the past. In the case of Roe vs. Wade (1973), the court established a woman’s right to an abortion and, in a subsequent case called Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (1986), it was established that a woman could only request an abortion before a fetus was deemed viable and that the state could not impose an undue burden on the path of the woman requesting this abortion. Regarding school prayers, the case of Engel versus Vitale (1961) followed a case where a New York public school conducted non-compulsory, non-denominational prayer in public schools, and the Supreme Court ruled against it under the 1st Amendment ban on establishing a directed religion by the state. These cases set a strong precedent for maintaining access to abortion for more than fifteen weeks and against allowing prayer for a school sports team.
The concern of Dobbs and kennedy is not the precedent previously set, but whether the court will reverse its past decisions. Although the court prefers not to rule itself, the current set of judges sitting on the court are likely to do just that. The court is made up of nine judges, and as things stand, six of them have indicated they support the annulment. Deer. EThey have the opportunity to do so in the next few Dobbs decision. Those same six justices are also strongly in favor of protecting religious freedom and could potentially rule in favor of allowing team prayer in a school sport.
If the court issues these two rulings as noted above, it could be a sign that the court will no longer protect the right to privacy and will instead protect religious expression. This seriously jeopardizes the right to abortion in the United States. The Supreme Court must rule in favor of protecting the right to privacy and protecting women’s bodily autonomy. The court must not fall back into its old scheme of protecting religious rights to take away the right of women to do what they want with their bodies.