U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made one last wish before passing away—to wait until after the inauguration to fill her vacancy. Instead, it has quickly been politicized by conservative politicians whose main interest is drastically shifting the ideology of the Court for decades to come, rather than upholding democracy and representing the wishes of their constituents.
The stakes have never been higher. Justice Ginsberg fought for and secured gender equality, access to safe and legal abortion, affordable health care for everyone, and LGBTQ rights. Her tireless work made her a beacon and catalyst for a new generation that has been forced by politicians in the past four years to fight to protect and advance their basic rights, which have been under attack like we have not seen in recent years.
By advancing President Donald Trump’s newly named nominee Amy Coney Barrett and securing a 6-3 conservative majority, Justice Ginsburg’s decades of work promise to be eroded along with the freedoms of Americans everywhere.
Despite that, Iowa U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have quickly done an about face to their previous stance of not filling court vacancies in an election year, falling in line with Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Iowans want good government over politics. They elected their representatives to bring Iowa values to Washington D.C. In Iowa, we keep our promises over playing politics. But that sentiment seems to have been lost in recent years.
This fight promises to only widen the gender gap among voters, one that we haven’t seen in recent elections. Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, holds a 20-percentage point lead among women in the state. And it’s no surprise.
The threat to the reproductive freedoms and access to health care in Iowa isn’t a hypothetical or academic debate. We have experienced firsthand in the past four years the onslaught that happens when anti-abortion lawmakers put politics ahead of the health of Iowans.
Iowa lawmakers in 2017 took a gold-standard family planning program that provided reproductive health care to low- to mid-income Iowans and defunded Planned Parenthood, the program’s largest provider.
As a result, Planned Parenthood was forced to close four health centers across the state that served thousands of patients. And enrollment in the replacement program plummeted more than 90 percent in the years since the change, leaving thousands without critical reproductive health care, including STI testing and treatment, birth control, annual exams and cancer screenings.
These anti-abortion politicians also passed what was at the time the most restrictive six-week abortion ban and waiting period for abortion care, both of which were ruled unconstitutional by state courts. In response, lawmakers introduced a constitutional amendment stripping Iowans of their guaranteed right to access safe and legal abortion. They also pushed forward an unprecedented number of anti-abortion bills in the 2020 legislative session on.
The reckless policies passed by these politicians have created a statewide STI crisis that has been more severe in the counties where Planned Parenthood closed its doors. Maternal mortality rates continue their overall upward trend and, for the first time in recent years, the abortion rate spiked 25 percent in one year.
As a state, we cannot sit idly by and allow a U.S. Supreme Court nominee to be pushed through in an election year. Voters must have their say at the polls and make their voice heard to their Senators. Early voting in Iowa begins on October 5. And Iowans must contact Senators Grassley and Ernst and demand they listen to their constituents and wait until January to fill Justice Ginsburg’s replacement. Our voice matters and it is vital Iowans know their voice matters.