Celebrating Justice Jackson—As We Brace for a Roe Reversal

While Jackson’s confirmation is a major victory, advocates still anticipate a Roe v. Wade repeal this coming summer.

President Joe Biden congratulates Ketanji Brown Jackson moments after the U.S. Senate confirmed her to be the first Black woman to be a justice on the Supreme Court in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on April 7, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

In the midst of a news cycle that’s largely been dominated by bad news, this week we were elated to celebrate the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court—making her the first Black woman to ever serve on the nation’s highest court when Justice Breyer officially steps down this summer.

President Biden, who had long promised to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court, called her confirmation a “historic moment for our nation” in a post on Twitter shortly after the Senate vote.

“We’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America,” Biden added. “She will be an incredible justice, and I was honored to share this moment with her.” In the moments following the announcement of the vote, photographers captured an emotional Biden and Jackson celebrating together.  

The Supreme Court nevertheless remains dominated by a 6-3 right-wing majority that appears likely to overturn—if not at least severely gut—the Roe v. Wade decision that 50 years ago established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. Anticipating the Court’s decision, this past week Republican-dominated states across the U.S. moved to further criminalize abortion, signaling that even if Roe miraculously survives, we are living in an era where reproductive rights hang in the balance.

Oklahoma legislators passed a near-total ban on abortion on Tuesday, that if signed into law would make providing an abortion a felony crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Arizona’s governor signed a 15-week ban into law, virtually identical to the law at issue in the Mississippi case now before the Supreme Court. And also this week, lawmakers in Tennessee advanced a bill that would criminalize the mailing of abortion pills—a service that has been a crucial resource for rural abortion seekers and those with limited access to healthcare services. 

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Mississippi case will affect the lives of women and girls throughout the country, especially in states where women are significantly under-represented at the decision making tables of government. As Emily’s List president Laphonza Butler wrote in Ms.:

“This is a country that has been governed and led overwhelmingly by straight white men. It … reaches into every facet of government. And it’s not because there have been no qualified women or candidates of color or LGBTQ+ candidates for these seats. It’s because the system was not built for us.” 

Of two things I am certain. Women are determined to not go back—despite what the Court or state legislatures and governors decide. And you can count on Ms. to keep truth-telling and rebelling as we report on the Court’s actions and as we head into the crucial mid-term elections this fall.

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

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Katherine Spillar is the executive director of Feminist Majority Foundation and executive editor of Ms., where she oversees editorial content and the Ms. in the Classroom program.