Activists and experts discuss public health impact of recent court rulings at HSPH event | news

A panel of activists and legal experts said at an event hosted by the Harvard School of Public Health on Friday that the Supreme Court’s recent rulings will have a number of negative public health implications across the United States.

The panel — moderated by Dana Milbank, a Washington Post political columnist — included National Urban League President Marc Morial, attorney Esther Sanchez-Gomez, former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, and Leah Stokes, professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Panelists discussed the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Roe v. Wade, which removed constitutional protections for abortion.

“Young people are excited and worried,” Richards said.

She urged more healthcare professionals to speak out about how the court’s ruling will affect their patients.

“Access to reproductive health care is not a political issue — it’s a medical health issue,” she said.

The panel noted that the court’s abortion ruling would disproportionately affect women of color. It is estimated that if abortion were banned nationwide, maternal mortality would increase by 21 percent overall and by 33 percent among black women a study from 2021.

Throughout the event, panelists debated the rise of disinformation in American politics. Milbank, the moderator, said the “weaponry of disinformation” has “made it impossible to reach consensus or even have any reasonable discussion in political discourse.”

Sanchez-Gomez said disinformation has played a role in the political discourse over recent gun rights cases picked up by the court.

Panelists also discussed a June Supreme Court ruling that limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Stokes said Congress has since passed the language as part of the recently signed Anti-Inflation Act, which “confirms that the EPA has an obligation to regulate” carbon pollution.

“In a way, we now have more authority — we have more legal bulwarks — to make sure we can manage climate change,” she said. “I hope people don’t get too depressed about this particular case.”

Still, Stokes said the court’s recent decisions were “not in line with the public,” which she said could “undermine its legitimacy.”

Sanchez-Gomez said public health research “gives us the tools to solve these problems, especially in [the] Space for Gun Violence Prevention.”

“Bringing young people together, empowering them to have these conversations and giving them tools like public health research is a hugely important part of that conversation,” she said.

— Staff writer Dorcas Y. Gadri can be reached at [email protected]

— Staff writer Krishi Kishore can be reached at [email protected]

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