Last June, the Supreme Court delivered two landmark decisions regarding abortion & transgender rights. In June Medical Services v. Russo, the court struck down a restrictive Louisiana law that would have left just a single abortion clinic in the entire state open, and in Bostock V. Clayton, the court ruled that the Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQIA+ employees from discrimination on the basis of sex.
It’s now August, and these two decisions are already having effects on our nation’s legal system – and proving that the battle is far from won.
June Medical Services v. Russo dealt with a restrictive Louisiana abortion law. The law would have forced all abortion providers to acquire admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. If it had gone into effect, only a single doctor within a single clinic would have been left to perform abortions for the entire state. The ruling was 5 to 4 against the law, with Justices Sotomayor, Ginsberg, Kagan, Breyer, and Roberts making up the majority.
However, Chief Justice John Roberts did not join the opinion set forth by the liberal wing of the court. Instead, he stated his decision was based on precedent alone – and that he did not agree with the decision of the Texas case precedent. Now, his opinion on a case that ruled against restricting access to abortion is being used to further restrict access to abortion. In Arkansas, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals cited his words as reason for lifting an injunction on four harmful abortion laws, which “would completely block many people from obtaining abortion care, and would eventually leave the state with even more limited abortion care” said the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Reproductive Rights in a joint statement.
Bostock V. Clayton centered people who were fired from their jobs for being LQBTQIA+. The Supreme Court was tasked with deciding if “on the basis of sex” in the Civil Rights Act included LGBTQIA+ identity – and therefore if it is against the constitution to fire someone for being gay or transgender. In a 6-3 ruling, the court stated that it is, with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing the majority opinion.
However, within the opinion, Gorsuch wrote: “under Title VII, too, we do not purport to address bathrooms, locker rooms, or anything else of the kind… the only question before us is whether an employer who fires someone simply for being homosexual or transgender has discharged or otherwise discriminated against that individual ‘because of such individual’s sex.” This made it unclear how the ruling would be applied in the lower courts. But the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heavily relied on Bostock V. Clayton to deliver their 2-1 ruling that ensured a transgender boy could use the school restroom that matched his gender identity.
Judge Beverly B. Martin wrote of her decision, “Bostock confirmed that workplace discrimination against transgender people is contrary to law. Neither should this discrimination be tolerated in schools… the school board’s bathroom policy, as applied to Mr. Adams, singled him out for different treatment because of his transgender status. It caused him psychological and dignitary harm.”
Sources: Washington Post 08/13, New York Times 08/13, NPR 08/13