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Opinion – Clarence Thomas proves Roe v Wade impacts everyone

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas’ comments on LGBTQ+ rights suggest a war on civil liberty is just beginning in America. 

In the next 30 days, 13 states will ban abortion in the US. Since the Supreme Court announced its decision to overturn Roe v Wade – the 1973 ruling that made abortion legal nationwide – Missouri has already made all abortions illegal state-wide.

For millions of Americans, the announcement means losing access to abortion services, even in cases of rape, incest, or medical emergency. It feels dystopian, archaic, frankly terrifying that this is somehow a new reality.

But for conservative America, the overturning of Roe v Wade marks a major victory – winning a 50 year battle to take control of women’s rights and bodies.

While it seems like things couldn’t get worse, right wing efforts to undo decades of legislative progress are far from over.

Clarence Thomas, one of the five Justices who voted to overturn Roe v Wade, has stated that the court’s decision is just the beginning.

The Roe v Wade ruling was originally passed based on the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. These prohibit the government from depriving ‘any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law’.

In 1973, it was decided that this should include a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy, granting access to abortion before foetal viability – around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Now that Roe v Wade has been upended, other legislation based on the Due Process Clause is also under threat.

Justice Thomas has shared opinions that fuel these concerns. On Friday, he announced that all decisions rooted in substantive due process should be reconsidered by the Supreme Court:

‘As I have previously explained, ‘substantive due process’ is an oxymoron that ‘lack[s] any basis in the constitution’ Thomas argued, suggesting that claims of the right to ‘life, liberty or property’ have no bearing on what those rights actually encompass.

Other liberties entitled to protection under this ruling include rights to contraception, same-sex consensual relations, and same-sex marriage. Thomas stated that he believed all were worth revisiting.

Jim Obergefell, who helped secure the 2015 ruling to legalise same-sex marriage across the US, has fought back against Thomas’s claims, stating that the Justice was ‘appointed by humans, he is not the Supreme Deity’.

Sadly, Thomas’s comments are just the latest in a string of threats to LGBTQ+ rights across the States. In the past few years alone, a swathe of anti-trans legislation has fuelled anti-trans sentiment in the US mainstream.

Earlier this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott instructed the state’s child protection agency to investigate parents of transgender children for child abuse, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ has issued two proposals that would prevent trans youth from accessing gender-affirming care.

Obergefell has stated he feels a responsibility to use his platform to raise awareness about these threats to queer rights. ‘Anything I can do to help people understand how fragile our rights are right now, I will do’.

The court’s decision to repeal abortion rights nationwide has also exacerbated the realities of US inequality.

Many have expressed concern that the ruling will disproportionately impact women of colour. On average, Black women have lower incomes, lack access to quality healthcare, and seek abortions at higher rates due to lower contraceptive access.

Due to racial disparities in healthcare and a medical industry systemically tailored for white bodies, the risks for pregnant Black women are also much higher than those for white women.

Data has shown that in the US, Black women are three times more likely ‘to die from a pregnancy-related cause’ than their White counterparts.

‘The court is on a devastating path,’ Laurence Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law emeritus at Harvard, told TIME magazine. ‘[it] is likely to jeopardize literally all of the basic bodily integrity rights that people have come to rely on.’

Justice Clarence Thomas is neither the first nor last to throw the security of public rights into question. But the dismantling of Roe v Wade has already shown that marginalised communities will – as always – bear the brunt of this decision.

Obergefell suggests the solution – perhaps the only one we have at our disposal – is to use our voices. ‘Let people know that when any right is taken away by the Supreme Court, that puts all rights at risk’.

Never has it been more pertinent to speak up for the rights of others. For men to protest alongside the women who have lost their bodily autonomy. For straight people to support queer people facing legislative oppression. For the White population to grasp – with all their strength – to the civil rights that exist for Black America, and to fight for those that don’t.

The protection of individual liberty is a battle we can only fight together, one that spans beyond the US border and impacts the lives of each of us globally. And it is a battle we will all lose if we become complacent in our own fragile stability.