The following was read live at The Paper Machete, Chicago’s Live Magazine.
2016 has been the kind of year that not only tests one’s faith in the possibility of good governance, but in the existence of human decency. Between the Pulse shooting, ongoing congressional intractability on gun control, Brexit, the deaths of not one but two ethereal genderqueer rock gods, and Illinois constant budget woes, 2016 has been looking inescapably grim.
However, there is one place in this apocalyptic shitsmear of a world we can turn to for hope and affirmation. The Supreme Court. Once a hallowed hall of white devil mansplanation, SCOTUS has now become a liberal enclave, the one remaining place where logical argument and statistical evidence outweigh vacuous rhetoric and jingoism.
The court that gave us gay marriage is now one Antonin Scalia lighter, and, free of the racist rants and malapropisms of that hoagie-colored bloviator, SCOTUS is looking and feeling better than ever. This summer, the Supreme Court might as well be a kegger at Oberlin. Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor toss quips across the bench like beer pong balls. Christian Golf Dad John Roberts finds himself voting in favor of gun control. He’s backed up by fellow conservative Samuel Alito, whose head used to be shoved so far up Scalia’s ass the two resembled an incestuous matryoshka doll.
In this court, abortion rights are defended! Domestic abusers are barred from owning guns! Clarence “the Quiet Storm” Thomas actually speaks! It’s enough to give you faith.
Let’s first discuss the Court’s landmark abortion ruling. On Monday, SCOTUS overturned a Texas law that placed onerous restrictions on abortion facilities. The law required all abortion clinics to possess full surgical facilities and hospital admitting privileges, for “safety”, despite the fact that removing an unwanted blastocyst is less risky than pulling out a dead tooth or getting a colonoscopy. Those procedures, like abortion, are outpatient, but don’t come with such steep regulations. Neither does the far more risky alternative to abortion, shitting a baby out in a torrent of blood, placenta, and bile in a pool in your living room.
These restrictions, passed in 2013, are directly responsible for the closure of 22 abortion clinics across Texas. That might not sound like a lot, but the entire dust-choked hellscape of Texas only had 41 clinics total. That number dropped by over 50% in under three years.
At issue in this case was whether the law represented an “undue burden” on people’s abortion rights. That’s the legal standard — avoiding “undue burdens”. You can place burdens on people seeking abortion, like two-day waiting periods or obligatory conversations about the size of the blastocyst’s teeth, but they cannot be “undue”.
The state of Texas argued that something may be “undue” — that is to say, fucking pointless — without being a burden. That you can restrict abortions behind a veritable Agrokrag of unnecessary paperwork, so long as that pointless mountain is not “burdensome”. The liberals of the court shut that shit down, arguing that if a restriction has no purpose, costs millions of dollars, and closes a majority of clinics, it’s both undue and a burden.
In a 5–3 decision issued on Monday, SCOTUS overturned Texas’ abortion clinic restrictions. And on Tuesday, the Court upheld similar rulings in Wisconsin and Mississippi. This will allow the ONE REMAINING ABORTION CLINIC in MISSISIP to stay open. A similar ruling in Alabama is likely to be upheld as well.
But this, the most pro-choice Supreme Court ruling in over twenty years, is not the only gift SCOTUS gave us this week. On Monday, the court ruled in Voisine vs. The United States that individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence are not permitted to own guns.
Let me tell you a bit about Stephen Voisine. In 2003, he was convicted of misdemeanor assault for drunkenly slapping his girlfriend in the face. In 2005, ditto. Then, in 2009, Voisine was arrested for using a rifle to take down a BALD fucking EAGLE.
Gun control advocates couldn’t ask for a better test case than Stephen Voisine. The American public, after all, is pretty excellent at turning a blind eye to domestic violence, but we shit a BITCH if you touch one of our favorite majestic freedom creatures. Slapping an intimate partner can be tolerated, especially if you’re a funny little white devil who hangs out with Tim Burton. But your ass is WRECKED if you fuck with a lion, an eagle, or a golden retriever.
Voisine’s attorney argued that he should not be barred from owning a gun, because his domestic abuse was “reckless”, not intentional. In other words, a sober-minded, conniving abuser should be banned from gun ownership, sure, but somebody who accidentally brutalizes a partner while shwasted is just a too-chill motherfucker who made a mistake (or three), and totally deserves to have a gun in their house so they can accidentally kill somebody the next time around.
Justices Kagan and Sotomayor were quick to dispatch with this argument, pointing out that reckless, unplanned assault can be just as terrifyingly violent as abuse of the more calculated variety. Part of what makes intimate partner violence so lethal is its capriciousness, the way it lurks behind quiet corners and poisons peaceful moments from within. Not to mention the fact that in households where domestic violence has occurred, the presence of a gun increases the risk of homicide by 600%.
On Monday, the Court majority ruled against Voisine, and upheld current law prohibiting convicted domestic abusers from owning guns. Many court-watchers saw it coming, but now that it’s official those of us who have been stalked, beaten, berated, or abused can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
That’s what this week of Supreme Court decisions was all about, really: a sigh of relief, so strong and so long-awaited it felt like a gasp. Congress has little to offer us; the UK is in shambles, violence plagues our cities, and students across Illinois are still waiting for last year’s financial aid. But at least the Supreme Court has entered an idyllic period of compassionate common sense, while the rest of the political world burns to the ground outside its window.
Originally published at erikadprice.tumblr.com.