The Indypendent hit the streets and spoke to New Yorkers in Washington Square Park about their responses to recent Supreme Court decisions.
Photos by Molly Morrow
Click here to read Sex, Guns and CO2 Emissions: The Supreme Court Tries to Repeal the 20th Century
The outcome of three major Supreme Court decisions have dominated politics, the media and the American public’s conversation in recent weeks. The June 23 NYSRPA v. Bruen decision decision found that New York’s concealed carry law is unconstitutional, and effectively ruled that the possession of guns in public is a constitutional right under the Second Amendment.
The following day came the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that deemed abortion access protected under the Constitution. Seventeen states have already limited or banned abortion procedures and six more are poised to do the same, leading to widespread panic and outrage. Protests erupted across the country.
Finally, on June 30 West Virginia v. EPA limited the EPA’s ability to reduce climate pollution from power plants. Public backlash points to widespread support for addressing climate change and anger about how this ruling rolls back some of the small U.S. efforts made to do so.
On Tuesday, The Indypendent hit the streets and spoke to New Yorkers in Washington Square Park about their feelings in the midst of these decisions and what solutions or changes they hope to see in the future.
Rebecca (right), 16
The overturning of Roe v. Wade is not fair to women in general. There are so many different situations and so many different perspectives. And four white, cis, straight males with wives of their own made that decision with one female who is also white. They don’t understand the situation, so they shouldn’t be able to make that decision for others.
Regarding the decision on guns — how is abortion more regulated than guns? I don’t understand that. They want to have the power, and they want to preserve power. Guns should be more controlled. They need to have background checks; they need to ensure safety and responsible use.
We need more Supreme Court Justices from more diverse backgrounds, not just white straight males. And younger people, too — the current justices don’t have our worldview; they don’t connect with us. We can’t have people totally out of touch with these issues making decisions that affect everyone’s lives and freedoms. Definitely term limits as well.
Mars (left), 17
It’s unfortunate because not only does it affect abortion, it affects contraception, interracial relationships and how we see a lot of other things. It’s also weird to see a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t care about someone’s rights being taken away to now show up for this. But I don’t think we can really fix what’s going on unless everyone is on board and we work for greater intersectionality.
In terms of guns, I hear a lot of people say they use them for protection. But usually the thing you’d need to protect yourself from with a gun is another gun. And if no one had guns, that wouldn’t be an issue. Furthermore, even the people who are supposed to have guns — like police officers — often don’t use them responsibly. If people who are trained to go into society and use a gun can’t always do that properly, what makes anyone think civilians can be responsible with guns?
It’s not just gun regulations that need to happen. There are a lot of communities where guns were planted years ago. Entire communities grow up around these things, and they’re not given a way out — poverty, education, family dynamics, and money can be issues. I feel like focusing on those spaces is also really important to reducing gun violence. I’d like to see things change culturally in addition to getting rid of guns. It’s gonna be a while before we actually get guns off the streets so it’s important to reduce violence until that happens.
Erin (right), 28; From Texas; Social-media manager for her church
I haven’t done enough research on it, so my thoughts are not concrete. I don’t think abortion should be legal, but I understand that there are times when a mother needs to live, so I think there are exceptions. But I think a lot of people are getting abortions because having a baby is inconvenient, and it hurts my heart to see the babies in the womb that are just being murdered, basically. I think maybe there should be contingencies on abortion — there needs to be a line drawn, but where the line is drawn I don’t really have an answer for.
I’m not in the medical field, but doctors can determine the health risks and will know when a woman’s life is in danger. I feel like it could be left up to doctors’ discretion. With cases of rape and incest, I don’t know — I can’t even fathom being in that situation and all the trauma involved.
I haven’t gone through the adoption process, but I have only heard that it’s expensive and very hard to adopt children. I think there’s a good reason for that. However, I also think we should make it easier and have more resources, including mental health resources, for pregnant women, particularly those who have gone through traumatic experiences, as well as the family that wants to adopt the baby.
On gun laws, it’s hard because America is the land of the free, and people should be allowed to have guns; however, in recent times there have been people who have gotten guns and it hasn’t been good.
Rachel (left), 27; Behavioral management specialist at a private school
On gun rights, I think I would agree that it’s overstepping rights to restrict them, though I think there should be some restrictions and more regulations on who is able to get them. I have personally been in a situation where someone had a gun and they were coming to attack a group I was in. Had someone in our group not been trained and legally carrying a gun, we might have all been shot.
We’ve seen a lot of classroom school shootings. I think there would be less shootings if teachers were able to carry and had to go through training. I understand that’s not a responsibility many would want to take on, but to those who feel that kind of strength and have gone through testing to prove they are trustworthy, I think it could be very beneficial for some people in the public to carry guns. I think it could prevent a lot of harm.
On Roe v. Wade, I don’t believe abortion is right, but I don’t know all the answers. I think it would be good if adoption wasn’t such a difficult thing, if those policies could be changed and we completely restructured adoption agencies. I’ve had friends that have tried unsuccessfully for years to adopt a child, and I think that’s more of a solution than killing the babies in the womb. I think there’s a lot of people who have such a heart to step up and take on that responsibility. I have a friend right now who is stepping up to hopefully help take care of someone’s baby — she’s really young and she doesn’t feel like she can quite handle that yet.
If all the funding that went to abortions went to that, I think it would be a lot more doable for many people to adopt. And social services should step up their game and make the process more efficient, while still being rigorous and making sure the child goes to a good home. There’s a lot of revamping that needs to happen in that area.
The three recent Supreme Court decisions meld together for me. Part of the time I’m disassociating myself from the news, but it also leads to just a general sadness about these decisions — how they impact actual people’s lives. That’s mostly how I feel — a general sadness.
Daniel Emuna, 30; Product specialist
I’ve been keeping my mind away from the news mostly. I’m not even surprised anymore when this country decides to do us wrong. If it’s not in the headlines, you can just go to Barnes & Noble and look at the history books and see how this country has done us wrong and continues to do us wrong. There are some extreme books that talk about America as a corporation — and that idea is something I’m really trying to latch on to, because at the end of the day, the utility of this country is to benefit a specific few and keep the rest of us serving the whims of the few.
I think that counting on legislators to change things is healthy, but it’s also a slow process in terms of actually changing things. I study a lot of the civil rights leaders and Pan-African leaders, folks who are trying to gather everybody and liberate us. I feel like that is the effort we really need to be working with, whether it’s learning about their ideas or gathering the people together and talking about what these things mean.
I think what you all are doing is great. Everybody is on their phones all the time and we’re always communicating, and there are folks who agree with these new developments, and they may not communicate with you in person like this, but they will look on their phones and tune in and they will be educated as you share.
I’m not totally pessimistic about the power of the media, but it is difficult realizing that some folks are just not interested in challenging the viewpoints that they’ve lived with their whole lives. My solution is to use the American governmental system to benefit as many people as it can benefit, and then reevaluate whenever someone comes forward and says that the current system leaves them out. I think that’s essentially the role of a helpful government. But am I optimistic that that will be our reality in the next 35 years? Not necessarily. I was just talking with my mom earlier today about realizing that there are some things that are not even going to change within my lifetime.
I’ve learned that there are some conversations that aren’t going to immediately change minds. I’ve been having conversations with folks who literally supported politicians who have worked to limit my rights as a person of color. I’m talking to people who believe in a political ideology that literally impacts who I am and how I can live my life. It doesn’t matter that I’m a living representation saying, “Hey, that hurts that you said that.” They say it doesn’t mean me, but it does mean me, because I’m here in this body. It’s not always within my power as an actor within this body to change people’s minds–if I have the energy to have these conversations I might, but if I don’t, I might not. I still have a lot of energy, but I have less energy than I did six years ago.
Anonymous (left), 67; Retired doctor
There’s nothing in the Constitution guaranteeing the right to abortion. If we’re going by just the law, I don’t think that it’s a constitutional issue. If we want to make abortion legal in all 50 states, I think there should be an amendment to the Constitution, and everybody votes on it as a country. I don’t think it’s a “woman’s right to choose” issue, because it’s more of a moral issue. People have different opinions about when life begins. Half the country thinks it starts in the womb, and the other half doesn’t. There has to be some kind of compromise — a cut off, maybe, 16 weeks or 20 weeks, whatever it is. I don’t think anybody has a right to kill. In my opinion, when you have a heartbeat, it’s a developing human being. Especially as an ER doctor, my job was to save any life that came in, from one day old to 100 years old. It wasn’t my job to judge, it was my job to save the life.
Regarding the EPA decision, I don’t know if the EPA legally has the right to try and regulate what they were doing. They don’t establish what the law should be — Congress makes the law. I’m not a lawyer, but apparently the EPA overstepped those boundaries. And if we as a country want to make a decision about clean air, it should be a law that Congress makes.
Ken Ludmer (right), 80; Retired therapist
My opinion is different. I don’t like the direction we’re going with the Supreme Court. We’re regressing back to the mentality of the 1950s, when women didn’t have the rights they have now. The Supreme Court seems to be making religious law, and I think we’re better off when there’s separation of religion and government. This was all established law: the Clean Air Act gave us the right to breathe clean air and drink clean water, and now they’re taking away that right. I don’t understand why–it seemed like it was for the greater good. As far as women having the right to take care of their own body, I don’t understand why they would take that away either.
I’m the sort of person who believes that I can’t impose my beliefs onto others. I can’t make you do what I want, but you also don’t have the right to tell me what to do. I see us getting a lot more religiously conservative, and that concerns me because the history of religious conservatism in this country is violent. Regarding what to do about all of this, I’d like to add three more Justices to the Supreme Court to balance things.
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