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As it Happened: Harvard Commencement 2023
A panel of activists and legal experts said recent Supreme Court rulings will have an array of negative impacts on public health in the United States at an event hosted Friday by the Harvard School of Public Health.
The panel — moderated by Dana Milbank, a political columnist for the Washington Post — included National Urban League President Marc Morial, attorney Esther Sanchez-Gomez, former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, and University of California, Santa Barbara Political Science professor Leah Stokes.
The panelists discussed the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which stripped away constitutional protections for abortion.
“Young people are agitated, and they are concerned,” Richards said.
She called on more health care professionals to talk about how the court’s ruling will impact their patients.
“Access to reproductive health care is not a political issue — it’s a medical health care issue,” she said.
The panel mentioned that the court’s abortion ruling will disproportionately affect women of color. Maternal mortality would increase 21 percent overall and 33 percent among Black women if abortion were banned nationwide, according to estimates in a 2021 study.
Throughout the event, the panelists discussed the rise of disinformation in American politics. Milbank, the moderator, said “the weaponization of disinformation” has “made it impossible to reach consensus, or even have a sensible discussion in political discourse.”
Sanchez-Gomez said disinformation has played a role in the political discourse surrounding recent gun rights cases taken up by the court.
Panelists also discussed a June Supreme Court ruling that curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Stokes said Congress has since passed language as part of the recently-signed Inflation Reduction Act, which “reaffirms that the EPA has a requirement to regulate” carbon pollution.
“In some ways, we now have more authority — we have more legal bulwarks — to make sure that we can take on climate change,” she said. “I hope people don’t get too depressed about this particular case.”
Still, Stokes said the court’s recent decisions have been “out of step with the public,” which she said could “undermine its legitimacy.”
Sanchez-Gomez said public health research “is what gives us the tools to solve these problems, particularly in [the] gun violence prevention space.”
“Getting together young people, empowering them to have these conversations, and giving them tools like public health research is a hugely important part of this conversation,” she said.
— Staff writer Dorcas Y. Gadri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Staff writer Krishi Kishore can be reached at email@example.com.
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