3 Recent US Supreme Court Decisions Showing The Court’s Turn To “Extreme Conservatism”

A week of controversial decisions like few in the history of the United States Supreme Court.

Like every June, prior to its summer recess, the highest constitutional court in the country announces the opinions of the most important cases that it analyzed throughout the year: sentences with broad political, social and economic implications that can impact the lives of millions of people.

This month has not been the exception and in the last three days the Supreme Court gave its verdict on three of the cases that generated the greatest expectations, tensions and debates.

This Friday, as the leak of a previous opinion had suggested last May, the Court decided to allow abortion to be recognized as a constitutional right.

A day earlier, in a country experiencing a wave of mass shootings, he resolved to limit the restrictions that states can impose on their inhabitants to carry firearms in public.

And on Tuesday, in a society that has prided itself on its secularism since its founding, the Court decided to shorten the separation between church and state by allowing public funds to be used to maintain religious schools.

These are decisions that, individually and as a whole, have provoked numerous questions among academics, historians and scholars of the Supreme Court, who have pointed out that these positions show a turn towards “extreme conservatism” and a “politicization” of one of the most respected for years in the United States.

“It is an extreme and dangerous path that the Court is now taking us on,” the president said on Friday. Joe Biden.

“With this decision (the abortion one), a conservative majority of the Supreme Court shows how extreme it is. How far away they are from most of this country,” she added.

A “more political” court

This week’s verdicts have once again emphasized the Court’s independence and its closeness to certain political positions.

“The perception is not of a court that is half political, half legal, but all political,” he told the BBC. Keith Bybeevice dean of the Syracuse University School of Law.

A study spanning more than a decade published earlier this month in PNASthe prestigious magazine of the Academy of Sciences of the United States, indicated that the Court for two years “has become much more conservative than the American public.”

“The gap between the Court and the public has grown since 2020, with the Court moving from being fairly close to the average American to a position that is more conservative than most Americans,” the study says.

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The year, according to the publication, is not random: it was when the composition of the Supreme Court changed radically under the mandate of donald trump.

The then president had the extraordinary opportunity to nominate three judges during his government, which radically transformed the balance between conservatives and liberals that he had had until then.

Trump made sure to nominate judges with conservative and religious views, most of them from the Federalist Societyan organization that advocates a literal reading of the Constitution.

Thus, a “supermajority” of 6 conservative judges was solidified against 3 of more liberal positions.

A study of University of Chicago showed that Court decisions since then have also become more conducive to favoring religious concepts and themes over what were previously considered individual liberties.

Although Trump reconfigured the Court, legal experts point out that the court’s move towards conservatism has been a process that has been consolidated over the years: of the 18 judges confirmed from 1969 to date, 14 have been nominated by presidents. Republicans and only four by Democrats.

Yet legal experts point out that today’s conservative justices are nothing like those of decades past: In fact, it was five Republican justices who joined two Democrats in legalizing abortion in 1973. Roe v. Wade, the precedent that recognized abortion as a constitutional right.

Map states United States with trigger laws, activation or triggers to restrict abortion.


According to the PNAS study, the Court “is now more similar to the Republican Party in its ideological position on key issues.”

And although during 2021 the court did not make very controversial decisions, the numerous cases on which it ruled this week have drawn attention to an apparent speed to change some laws that were already part of American society.

“The most surprising thing about these rulings is the speed with which the conservatives of the Court are moving to enact massive and controversial changes,” the constitutional law professor said on the Harvard University website. maya sen.

At BBC Mundo we tell you what the three controversial decisions announced this week have consisted of.

1- Roe v. Wade

This Friday’s decision by the Supreme Court annulled a tradition of almost 50 years in which abortion was considered a constitutional right in the United States.

The conservative majority concluded that “the power to regulate abortion” should be returned “to the people and their elected representatives,” according to the text drafted by Judge Samuel Alito.

The origin of the sentence goes back to a specific case, that of Dobbs against the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which a Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks, including in cases of rape, was challenged.

Lynn Fitch, the attorney general of Mississippi, initially asked the Supreme Court to uphold her state’s law, but then went a step further, calling for the landmark Roe vs. Wades from 1973.

Of the judges who voted to repeal abortion rights, three had been appointed by Trump and the rest by other Republican presidents.

The three progressive magistrates who took a stand against argued that “the Court changes course today for one reason and one reason only: because the composition of this court has changed.”

They assured that they felt “sadness for this Court, but more so for the millions of American women who today have lost a fundamental constitutional protection.”

2- Greater access to weapons

The high court annulled this Thursday, with 6 votes in favor and 3 against, a law of more than 100 years that restricted the possession of weapons on public roads in the state of New York.

Until now, carrying a firearm there in public required a special license and to obtain it it was necessary to show good cause (similar to what happens in other states, such as California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island).

Representing the majority that backed the Supreme Court ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the Constitution protects “the right of an individual to carry a firearm for self-defense outside the home.”

Thus, it considered that requiring citizens to show just cause to exercise it in New York violates the Second Amendment of the Magna Carta.

An anti-abortionist holds up a sign reading "Goodbye Roe" outside the US Supreme Court on June 13, 2022.

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This amendment, drafted in 1791 and whose interpretation is currently the subject of debate, includes “the right of the people to possess and bear arms”, although it says that it is done so that they form part of a “well-regulated militia”.

The Supreme Court ruling is expected to be used to overturn other restrictive gun ownership legislation across the country, which would affect a quarter of the estimated 330 million Americans.

In the United States there are more than 390 million guns registered in civilian names.

In 2020 alone, more than 45,000 Americans died from firearm-related injuries, including homicides and suicides.

3 – Money for religious schools

The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a Maine government tuition program that barred public funds from going to religious schools.

The vote, again, was 6-3, and the majority opinion claimed that the state discriminated against religious schools for their teaching of the faith.


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“Maine’s ‘non-sectarian’ requirement for its tuition assistance payments violates the free exercise clause of the First Amendment (which recognizes religious freedom),” the Chief Justice wrote, John Roberts.

In the dissent, the progressive judge Sonia Sotomayor He assured that Tuesday’s ruling was in line with other recent measures by the Court to expand religious freedom, while accusing the conservative majority of collapsing “the separation wall between the church and the ANDstate that the framers of the Constitution fought to build“.

“As a result, in just a few years, the Court has changed constitutional doctrine, shifting from a rule that allows states to refuse to fund religious organizations to one that requires states in many circumstances to subsidize religious indoctrination with taxpayer dollars. ”, he claimed.

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