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What’s At Stake If RBG’s Seat is Filled Before the Election

First and foremost, it is sad to have to jump to the defense in the wake of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death instead of taking ample time to mourn the loss of an American icon and champion for equality. Alas, the game of politics never stops to give pause for anybody. With the death of RBG, we are left with Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump quickly moving to fill her seat. It goes without mentioning that this is extremely hypocritical on their part, as Republicans said that voting for a new Supreme Court Justice should not occur during an election year in 2016. 

Now, if this vote occurs before the presidential election in November, then we are guaranteed to have a conservative justice on the Supreme Court for the rest of his or her life, as Trump will appoint someone who follows his party’s beliefs. Here’s what’s at stake if a conservative SCOTUS justice is appointed:

1. Women’s Rights & Reproductive Rights

A common pillar in conservative beliefs is being strongly pro-life. Since Trump’s election and especially over the past year, there have been many attempts to lessen the strength of Roe v. Wade. Even at the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic reached the U.S., Republicans released an amicus curie brief stating that the rights to abortion should be, “reconsidered and, if appropriate, overruled.” During the summer, a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling shot down an abortion restriction in Louisiana. There’s more occurrences to mention, but it comes to show that if given the opportunity, conservatives will do anything to reverse Roe v. Wade in any capacity. Moreover, Planned Parenthood could continue to lose federal funding and cause millions of Americans to lose access to essential medical care. By having another conservative justice, there will be a 6-3 majority of right-wing justices to left-wing justices. In essence, abortion access will surely be in imminent danger with the appointment of a justice chosen by President Trump. 

2. Immigrant Rights

Trump has again and again threatened DACA, among many other attacks against immigrants, specifically from predominantly Islamic countries and Latinx countries. We’ve already had Supreme Court hearings this year on DACA, though the court did not rule in Trump’s favor and stated that his 2017 rescission of the program was unlawful. With a new conservative justice on the court, DACA could potentially be at risk of full closure. Among this, the Supreme Court could roll back certain protections for immigrants and stall on any immigration reforms. The decision in June regarding DACA was a 5-4 ruling, which leaves American immigration at stake with the potential addition of a right-wing justice appointed by President Trump. 

3. Voting Rights

The Voting Rights Act has repeatedly been attacked by Trump, and with the Supreme Court potentially leaning more conservative, the strength of this 1965 law could continue to dwindle. In 2018, around 2 million voters were removed from voter rolls, which still has a harrowing effect on the upcoming election. Counties began purging voters after the Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013, which weakened the Voting Rights Act. This stated that previously discriminatory counties were to submit proposed changes to voting procedures to a federal court or the Department of justice, so as to ensure voters were protected in their respective counties. As of 2018, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, this phenomenon increased greatly and led to the purging of 17 million voters between 2016 and 2018 as a result of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling. Should we gain another right-wing justice on the court, threats to voter’s rights could continue to persist and lead to the suppression of minority voters. 

4. LGBTQ+ Rights

Trump’s refused to acknowledge Pride during the month of June, and has directly attacked transgender Americans who wish to serve in the U.S. military. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled against the Department of Justice and said that it was illegal for employers to discriminate against anyone on the basis of a person’s sex and included sexual orientation and transgender status. This was brought forth by Attorney General William Barr, one of Trump’s closer allies. Needless to say, if another conservative justice is appointed, then federal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans will most definitely be at a potential risk. 

5. Healthcare

Put simply, the Affordable Care Act is at serious risk with the death of Justice Ginsberg. Trump has relentlessly fought, with the help of many Republicans, to remove the law set in place by former president Barack Obama. This is especially a contentious issue amid the Coronavirus pandemic, as millions have lost their jobs and health insurance and rely on Obamacare for healthcare today. Americans were already a common concern before the death of RBG in the upcoming election, but with a potential justice being added before the election, this could set the stage for disaster. Even if Trump loses in November, he still could add a new justice before the November 10 hearing on a lawsuit led by Republicans, President Trump, and Attorney General William Barr regarding the ACA. In this decision, the Affordable Care Act could be weakened or done away with. And if it doesn’t happen then, it could happen any time during this generation, as Supreme Court Justices serve for life. 

6. Environmental Regulations

With wildfires all over the west coast, it’s safe to say our world is literally on fire right now. Republicans have continually ignored climate change, and it shows. The Supreme Court has had to repeatedly fight the EPA on certain environmental regulations, such as the Clean Water Act. Should another conservative justice join the Supreme Court, rulings such as these could affect the state of climate change and remove protections for our environment. 

It’s possible that Trump won’t win this election, but Biden could lose just as easily. If Biden is elected, then we’ll likely see a left-wing justice join the court and keep the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court as it was with RBG still living and serving. And yes, Trump will appoint a conservative justice if he wins. But, the issue on the table is that Trump could damn our generation to a mostly conservative Supreme Court before he potentially leaves office. This gives him an unprecedented amount of power, one that Obama was not allowed to have before leaving office, and entirely change the trajectory of our history for years to come. This is undeniably urgent and we must do everything we can to communicate to our senators that Trump’s appointment of a new justice does not represent what we want as citizens of the United States. Above all else, VOTE in the upcoming election. 

Information on your voting status, how to register to vote, and other important voting information can be found at vote.org

Hailey Wilcox is the Editor-in-Chief and one of the two Campus Correspondents of Her Campus at Furman University. She is a senior Educational Studies major, and hopes to pursue a Master's in Applied Behavior Analysis. Aside from Her Campus, she is President of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed community service fraternity. Her passions include self-care, helping her communities, and makeup!
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