The Supreme Court of the October 2021 term (Courtesy photo)
The Supreme Court of the October 2021 term (Courtesy photo)

The U.S. Supreme Court began the new term on Monday with an agenda that includes a variety of controversial issues from voter representation and gun rights to a woman’s access to abortion services.

In one of its first actions on Monday, the justices chose not to interfere with a ruling of a lower court that said District residents don’t have the right to voting representation in the U.S. Congress. District residents serving as plaintiffs sued in federal court, arguing they have all of the obligations of U.S. citizenship but don’t have voting rights in either chamber of the U.S. Congress.

Before the matter reached the Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit both ruled against District residents. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) expressed her displeasure with the high court’s decision.

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court summarily affirmed a three-judge panel’s ruling that D.C. residents do not have the constitutional right to voting representation in the House,” Norton said. “However, the ruling has no bearing on the constitutionality of D.C. statehood, which would give D.C. residents voting representation in the House and Senate and full control over local affairs.”

“In fact, the three-judge panel expressly referred to ‘statehood’ as a remedy for D.C. statehood. Thank you to the D.C. residents who served as plaintiffs and their pro bono attorneys for their efforts in this case,” she said.

Jamal Holtz serves as a lead organizer for 51 for 51, an organization seeking to get the U.S. Senate to gut the filibuster and allow a vote on Sen. Thomas Carper’s (D-Del.) D.C. statehood bill. Holtz said the Supreme Court’s ruling, while disappointing, won’t stop the statehood movement from achieving its goal.

“The Supreme Court failed to advance representation for D.C. residents and now we need Congress to do its job,” Holtz said. “Constitutional scholars have debunked Republican arguments against statehood and we can’t let racist rhetoric — or racist rules like the filibuster — block statehood any longer. With voter suppression bills spreading across the country, D.C. statehood must be part of the solution to fulfill the promises of our democracy. We’re closer than we’ve ever been to D.C. statehood and we can’t let the Jim Crow filibuster stand in the way.”

The Dobbs Case

While the Supreme Court rejected hearing the case of D.C. voting rights, it has agreed to hear the abortion rights case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case where the circuit court threw out Mississippi’s law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The Dobbs case serves as another challenge to the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized a pregnant woman’s right to have an abortion without excessive governmental interference. According to The Center for Reproductive Rights, the Dobbs case marks the first time the court will rule on the constitutionality of a pre-viability abortion ban since Roe.

“The court’s ruling in Roe recognized that the decision whether to continue a pregnancy or have an abortion, which impacts a person’s body, health, family and future, belongs to the individual, not the government,” the website said.

Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of The Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement: “Alarm bells are ringing loudly about the threat to reproductive rights.”

“The Supreme Court just agreed to review an abortion ban that unquestionably violates nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and is a test case to overturn Roe vs. Wade,” Northup said.

A National Public Radio/Marist Poll announced on Oct. 4 on “The PBS Hour” revealed popular support for abortion rights. The poll reported 74 percent of Americans don’t support the Texas law where people can sue abortion providers while 58 percent oppose limiting abortions up to the time of cardiac activity that has been detected about six to eight weeks into pregnancy.

Other Important Issues

Martha Coyle, an expert on the Supreme Court with the National Law Journal, noted on “The PBS News Hour” that the new agenda includes expansion of a citizen’s gun rights and two religious-based cases — one dealing with taxpayer’s aid to religious elementary and another to secondary religious schools.

She added, “they could add the Harvard University affirmative action case” which questions whether the university can limit the number of Asians students it admits.

“Right now, the court has 35 cases that it will hear at this point,” Coyle said. “By January, that number could be up to 70.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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