I can still remember the way my heart dropped when I got the news alert on my phone a year ago: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died.
In the four years preceding the news of Justice Ginsburg’s death, my work has been focused on the federal courts. I’d spent hours upon hours in meetings trying to make sure we were prepared if something like this happened, educating our networks and friends about why the Supreme Court mattered and what was at stake with every vacancy. Talking about how the federal courts impact our lives, and begging people to care about who sits on the federal bench. I had talked through, logistically, the far-right takeover of our courts, and what that would mean for people all across the country.
Logically, I knew what would happen when Justice Ginsburg passed. What would happen if the Far Right was allowed to put one more justice on the Supreme Court, thereby robbing us all of justice for generations to come.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how personal the onslaught of right-wing attacks on our rights, our freedoms, and our very existence would feel in the wake of her passing.
In just four years the Trump administration and the Far Right managed to stack our courts with over 200 lifetime judges. Before taking their places on the federal bench, at least 23 of those judicial nominees had fought against access to affordable health care. At least 40 had fought to roll back reproductive rights. At least 35 had worked to deny equal rights to LGBTQ+ people like me. They had demonstrated records of fighting against the rights of people with disabilities, of criminal justice reform, of the rights of indigenous peoples, workers, consumers, people of color. They defended the KKK in blog posts, called transgender children “part of Satan’s plan,” and spread misinformation about reproductive health care.
And unfortunately, these judges have so far performed exactly as expected on the federal bench. They have sided with employers who segregated employees by race and ethnicity, intentionally misgendered defendants in their courtrooms, and tried to defund vital reproductive health care facilities. We’ve catalogued their hundreds of bad decisions in our Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears project.
And just weeks ago, we all watched as the three Trump justices on the Supreme Court effectively gutted Roe v. Wade and access to abortion care in Texas, stripping millions of people of their bodily autonomy.
Unfortunately, things are likely to get worse before they get better. And it’s going to feel like an attack on all fronts, because it is. From January to July, more than 400 bills have been introduced in 49 states that restrict voting access. GOP lawmakers in at least seven states have announced plans to enact laws similar to Texas’ draconian abortion law. 2021 is set to break records for the number of anti-LGBTQ laws being passed across the country. The Far Right has spent years preparing for this moment, gerrymandering districts, restricting our access to vote, and taking over our courts at the state and federal level so they could enact their unpopular, unconscionable policy agenda on an unwilling population.
These attacks, this moment was bound to feel personal – because it is. It’s not just “the right to vote” that’s under attack – it’s our ability to be heard and participate in our democracy. It’s not just a nebulous “right to abortion” – it’s the right for all of us to have the final say about what happens to our own bodies. All of these rights we so often hear people talk about in the abstract have real world implications on each and every one of us.
If you look back on this past year, a year full of loss, of a stolen Supreme Court seat, of triumphant electoral wins and a terrifying insurrection, a continued global pandemic, of mounting attacks on our right to be heard, to control our own bodies, to even exist authentically as ourselves, and are tired and scared and feeling like you don’t know what’s next, know that you’re not alone. There are so many of us who know exactly what you’re going through, who are feeling each of these attacks as not just someone in the fight for a better future, but as a person.
And we won’t give up. We won’t let these attacks go unchallenged or undefeated. We will fight, just as the heroes we lost recently, like Justice Ginsburg and Rep. John Lewis, and the heroes who came before them fought. And together, we will win.