Since the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, many are debating how President Donald Trump’s replacement nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, could impact the way the court will rule on future cases. At RALIANCE, we’re most focused on how a changing court could impact survivors of sexual violence, so we sat down with RALIANCE Policy Director Terri Poore for her thoughts on why survivors and their allies should be concerned.
RALIANCE: Will the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) soon hear any cases that could impact survivors?
POORE: The most immediate concern I have for survivors is the court’s upcoming case on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), for which they’ll hear arguments on November 10. If the court overturns the ACA, it would have massive implications for sexual violence survivors, who have benefited enormously from the law’s expansion of health care access and protection from discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. Access to health care is critical to survivors, who may need professional care to cope with trauma or the impacts of sexual violence on their long-term health. The end of the ACA would be a major step backward for the health of survivors.
RALIANCE: Are there other issues on the slate that will likely impact survivors?
POORE: Absolutely. President Trump’s current nominee has been critical of Roe v. Wade and has demonstrated her willingness to change longstanding precedent. If Judge Barrett’s confirmed, the Supreme Court could ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade and threaten survivors’ access to the full range of reproductive health options they need, including abortion. If this happens, state laws providing narrow exemptions for rape survivors wouldn’t be very helpful either, because the vast majority of survivors don’t report to law enforcement or even tell anyone that a pregnancy resulted from rape.
We also know several Title IX cases could be headed to the Supreme Court, and there’s reason to be concerned that Judge Barrett would vote to roll back protections for student survivors. In the Doe v. Purdue case, for example, Judge Barrett made it easier for students who are being held accountable for sexual assault to sue their schools for sex discrimination.
RALIANCE: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so we’re also thinking about survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence. Could the changing court impact them as well?
POORE: Certainly. While domestic and intimate partner violence both have their own complexities, we know that it often includes sexual violence. As a result, there’s no doubt that ruling the ACA unconstitutional or overturning Roe v. Wade would be as much a setback for survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence at it would be for sexual violence survivors generally. These issues are all interrelated.
RALIANCE: What can someone do if they are concerned about how SCOTUS could impact survivors?
POORE: If you’re worried about the direction of the court, I strongly recommend you call your senators, especially if they sit on the judiciary committee, to voice your concerns about Judge Barrett. If the Senate ultimately confirms her to the court, however, it will be more important than ever for those who care about sexual violence survivors to involve themselves in the legislative process. Working on federal and state legislation that prioritizes the needs of survivors remains critical, regardless of who sits on the high court’s bench.
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