To protect abortion, we must expand the court
The extreme right-wing majority of the Supreme Court made clear our most fundamental rights are under attack. Congress has the ability to stop the court from imposing their minority views on the entire country.
Our job as members of Congress is to serve the people — and the majority of people in this country regardless of political affiliation or state of residence want to protect a woman’s access to an abortion. Democrats were elected to lead, and this moment calls for bold leadership in the face of an unprecedented attack on our rights.
When Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization leaked in May, showing the court was on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating a federal right to access an abortion, we each decided that expansion of the court was a necessary response to this roll-back of long established rights.
I practiced as a lawyer early in my career and I believe deeply in the power of our legal system to better people’s lives. This is not an op-ed I anticipated writing — or a decision I came to lightly. But unfortunately, the Supreme Court I studied in law school — one that respects precedent and makes decisions based on the rule of law — is not the Supreme Court we have today.
We face a court whose balance was tipped by a blatant Republican power grab by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell created new rules out of thin air and ran-over long-held Senate precedent for the nomination, consideration, and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice. Plain and simple, he stole a seat. His decision to bypass the need for bipartisan support allowed him to seat two more extreme and politically motivated justices. These moves were fueled by the influence of hyperpartisan donors, determined to overturn long-held rights and implement Republican policy to favor powerful but minority interests.
That’s why I am part of a group of 13 California Democrats in Congress calling for court expansion. We believe this is now necessary to support not just the right to a legal abortion, but to protect a host of fundamental rights that are at stake under this court.
Elected officials across the country are speaking up in support of abortion access — in Red states and Blue states and at every level of government. The momentum and energy is undeniable. Standing up and speaking out is not enough. The Supreme Court decision made clear just how hostile the extreme conservative justices are to our fundamental rights. Protecting abortion access requires at least three steps:
First, we must eliminate the filibuster. That’s step one. We need to pass two essential pieces of legislation, and we should be able to do this with a simple majority.
Second, we must enshrine in law a national right to abortion. The majority of Americans support legal abortion. This would simply represent the will of the majority of the people.
We can’t stop there, though. Not when we’ve got a Supreme Court ready to do whatever it takes — including shredding 50 years of precedent and calling for forced pregnancy — to get rid of Roe. What’s to stop them from overturning the very law we’ve just passed in pursuit of their ultimate goal?
That’s why the third step is essential: Pass the Judiciary Act and expand the Court. This legislation, boldly spearheaded by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), would restore balance and integrity to the Supreme Court. Without this step, the current extreme conservative court will continue to impose its minority viewpoint and ideological agenda on America.
Some of our constituents may wonder — do we really need all of these steps when abortion will always be legal in California? A few months ago many thought Roewould never be overturned. Look where we are now.
Republicans have already made clear that next time they have control of the government, they will pass a national abortion ban. But even before that, it will be harder for Californians to access an abortion when our clinics are beyond capacity because we are one of the few safe states left — not to mention that access is already limited for too many in our state. Lives and futures are at stake — and our window to take action is right now.
Our state prides itself on leading a progressive vision for this country — it’s why we are so proud to represent Californians in Congress. But that means we care about people everywhere, not just in our own state.
The three steps are clear. And that’s why I’m proud to be among the 62 members of Congress who support court expansion. It’s time to lead.
Barragán represents California’s 44th District.