Evidence Shouldn’t Be Optional – Scientific American

In a tumultuous few weeks, the Supreme Court ignored the scientific evidence underlying safe abortion, the need to slow climate change, and the value of gun safety laws. It is alarming that the justices have now indicated a willingness to consider a suffrage case next term, given Chief Justice John Roberts’ sentiments on what he calls the “sociological gibberish” of research on effects of gerrymandering.

The promise of democracy is being sorely tested by recent injustices committed by conservative Supreme Court justices in cases concerning the health, well-being and future of the planet. During this tenure, their decisions placed industry, religion (in particular, a conservative strain of Christianity), and special interests above facts. They devalued the role of expertise.

Ignoring science and evidence is a terrible change for the nation’s highest court, which once protected the health of the public in rulings that upheld state vaccine mandates and safe food production. This stands in contrast to how our current conservative justices have viewed COVID restrictions, whether it’s exempting religious groups from banning group gatherings or banning vaccination mandates for big business. Even in decisions that uphold basic principles of public health, conservative justices have tossed out misleading scientific claims. In his dissent on the Court’s decision not to pass New York’s vaccination mandate law for healthcare workers, Justice Clarence Thomas laments that workers seeking religious exemption objected to available COVID vaccines” because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children,” a wording that obscures the fact that the cells were grown in a lab based on elective abortions decades ago, and are also used in routine drug development.

We fear that this abdication of our social responsibilities for health and welfare will lead to unnecessary suffering and death. We urge the Court to change its reasoning – to value statistics, to value research, and to understand how ignoring it in decision-making is contrary to common decency and their responsibility as jurists to the people of the United States. United.

In their decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the majority ignored what we and others have repeatedly reported: abortion is safe – much safer than pregnancy itself – and that denying people access to legal abortions leads to poorer physical and mental health outcomes, not to mention economic outcomes. By overturning Roe vs. Wade, and denying abortion rights to states, the judges who voted for Dobbs put religion and the status of a cell mass above the health and well-being of the real people who represent about 50% of the US population. They also indicated their contempt for the medical profession and the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship that the majority justices will no doubt continue to enjoy after their decision becomes practical.

In striking down New York’s gun safety law, the majority justices ignored data that shows unfettered access to guns leads to more murders and suicides, not fewer crimes. They ignored data showing that guns are now responsible for more child deaths than automobiles. They even ignored the data that showed that once you repeal a gun law, gun-related murders go up. It was a cold decision, in the context of Uvalde, Buffalo and all the mass shootings our country has suffered over the past few decades. It was another slap in the face for our health care system and emergency clinicians who must try to save people being torn apart by incredibly easily obtainable high-powered weapons. As we’ve said before, gun safety laws are part of what makes a compassionate nation, and in that, the majority justices showed their callousness.

And then there is climate change. Removing the EPA’s energy to help power plants reduce their carbon output, the majority justices again said the evidence doesn’t matter, the science doesn’t matter. Our planet is heating up. Coal is one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases in the world. Removing regulatory power from the EPA now gives states the responsibility to slow climate change. Piecemeal efforts will not produce the reductions we need to slow warming. Federal action, as part of global efforts, is the necessary solution to this problem. And climate change is a public health issue. An increase in ferocious winter storms, unbearable heat, devastating rains and wildfires – all of these affect the health and well-being of people in the United States. The science is clear on this: we must act now, and the Supreme Court has made it harder to do so.

As at all levels of government, nothing obliges the Supreme Court to take science into account in its decision-making. And, as Judge Amy Coney Barrett said, “I’m definitely not a scientist.” But expertise is important, and knowing when you don’t know something and seeking that information improves justice. Yet in their efforts to be constitutional purists, at least when it suits their ideology, the majority justices show that ignoring science and evidence is their modus operandi. Instead, they use their power to defend a certain vein of religion: that same term, the majority ruled against the separation of church and state in two education cases, including the one is forcing Maine to fund schools that teach children misinformation about evolution and climate science. The United States once inspired other countries to protect people’s freedoms. Now the rest of the world is watching and reacting to the decisions our Supreme Court has made this term. And it’s not good.

You don’t have to be a scientist or a mathematician to make good decisions and judgments. But if you’re a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, with the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people depending on your every opinion, you owe it to us to use the data that science painstakingly compiles to make your decisions. . We cannot return to a world of religious and racial supremacy, where the bodies of women and people of color are objects without self-determination. We must not become the dystopian future that so much science fiction has warned us about. Let the evidence dictate the judgment.

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