Over its long history, the court has been viewed as a friend and a foe of racial progress. Last week’s decision to overturn a 50-year precedent in the landmark abortion case, signaled another turning point, said ReNika Moore, the director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. She immediately saw how the decision would disproportionately imperil the lives of low-income and women of color, particularly Black women. She also saw the implications of the decision for cases where race is at the heart of the matter.
“It doesn’t bode well for how the court will treat those civil rights cases,” Moore said.
Overturning Roe v Wade opens the door for reconsidering precedents that have advanced civil rights over the past century, from school desegregation to voting rights to affirmative action, legal scholars and civil rights advocates say. The decision also underscores that the court, which hears about 1% of cases petitioned annually, has thwarted as much as it has supported civil rights over the decades.
“The epicenter of action is shifting,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Civil rights groups cannot solely rely on the courts and must instead renew a focus on building coalitions with other groups and lobbying, in addition to pursuing litigation, he said.
In many ways, that has always been the strategy, said H Timothy Lovelace Jr., professor of law and history at Duke University School of Law. Prominent civil rights attorneys like Thurgood Marshall, who became the first Black justice in 1967, saw the supreme court as a “beacon of hope” for the