A Weekly Roundup of Politics: The Supreme Court Rulings and Marshae Jones

The 2020 Census Ruling

The Supreme Court had a busy day on Thursday announcing its rulings on several cases during the term’s last day. After much debate regarding whether or not a citizenship question should be added to the 2020 census, the High Court has chosen to block the subject from the decennial questionnaire that will arrive in every mailbox around the country in 2020. This ruling is a defeat for both the Trump administration and the Republican party. 

The case has been riddled with controversy after recovered documents from a deceased Republican political strategist revealed that adding a citizenship question would likely benefit white Americans and Republicans.

His recently revealed contact with the census bureau in 2017 raised eyebrows and placed the legitimacy of the Trump administration’s argument into question. 

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that there must be “Genuine justifications for important decisions,” before continuing, “Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case.”

The census helps national and state governments decide where money should be spent based on population figures. If people are not counted, their area receives less funding and fewer representatives in Congress. It is expected if there was a citizenship question that many undocumented people would not fill out the form, and thus the regions in which they live which are predominately Democratic would be put at financial and legislative disadvantages. The Trump administration argued that including the question would somehow protect minorities, but Chief Justice Roberts who sided with the liberal judges in a 5 to 4 ruling stated that “Reasoned decision making under the Administrative Procedure Act calls for an explanation for agency action,” before calling it a distraction (one of Trump’s most often played cards). 

Political Gerrymandering

In a separate decision, the Supreme Court held the door open for states to decide their own fates regarding partisan gerrymandering. The 5 to 4 ruling leaned conservative and basically kicks the responsibility back down to the states. While unlikely, a law can still be passed by Congress and the President that would make partisan gerrymandering illegal. 

Earlier this month the Court upheld a ruling that required Virginia to redraw its map after it was deemed racially gerrymandered. On Thursday, the Court’s majority defended itself by stating that the federal courts have no place in the discussion. Oddly, the Court believes that racial gerrymandering should be determined by the Court, but as for partisan, Justice Roberts in his majority opinion stated, “We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.” 

Justice Elena Kagan dissented with these words, “Of all times to abandon the Court’s duty to declare the law, this was not the one. The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the Court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections. With respect but deep sadness, I dissent.”

The decision kills various different state rulings across the country that required states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio to redraw their maps after it was deemed that they, too, were drawn to favor Republicans. 

Pregnant Woman Charged with Manslaughter After Being Shot

In a tragic and problematic indictment, a victim of gun violence in Pleasant Grove, Alabama is currently detained while awaiting trial for the death of her fetus. Marshae Jones, 27, was shot five times in the stomach late last year during an altercation with another woman regarding the man responsible for her pregnancy. The perpetrator Ebony Jemison, 23, had manslaughter charges dismissed after a grand jury decided she acted in self-defense and then turned their eyes to the victim. They chose to charge her with manslaughter because they felt she took the fight too far and should’ve deescalated the situation because she was pregnant. Pleasant Grove Police Lieutenant Danny Reid stated in December, “Let’s not lose sight that the unborn baby is the victim here. She had no choice in being brought unnecessarily into a fight where she was relying on her mother for protection.”

A fetus likely does not understand the concept of relying on someone, but this statement coming out of Alabama shouldn’t surprise people. Alabama recently passed a full ban on abortion attempting to overturn the 1973 landmark case Roe v Wade, which made abortion legal across the nation. 

The Jones case is a tragic example of victim-blaming. A woman gets shot five times and then she is charged with manslaughter? While Trayvon Martin was blamed for his own death because he was wearing a hoodie, Marshae Jones is being blamed for the death of her fetus because she was involved in a fight, somehow making her responsible for the other woman’s actions — it defies logic.

Jones was five months pregnant at the time of the shooting and had a miscarriage at a nearby hospital but survived the attack herself. Currently in the US, 38 states have feticide laws on the books. Many claim these laws are intended to protect pregnant people and fetuses from domestic violence and other acts of brutality. However, more and more often they are being used to criminally prosecute women when they lose a pregnancy. The criminalization of pregnant people who lose a fetus whether intentionally or not is far from a new phenomenon, but it has gone under-reported. Most of the people who have been criminally charged with feticide or other related charges are poor, women of color. 

The grand jury’s choice in Jones’ case to charge her with manslaughter seems to be foreshadowing a perilous future for women, trans, and non-binary folx who become pregnant. If she is indicted and the ruling is allowed to stand, then it opens the door for more and more circumstances of the death of a fetus to be blamed on pregnant people. These charges can include feticide and manslaughter which can parallel a murder charge in regards to the amount of time served. 

Ann Lewis is an artist, activist, and writer based in Detroit. Her artwork reflects upon social and environmental justice issues.  

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