- Three U.S. Supreme Court rulings issued last year will contribute to the loss of nearly 3,000 U.S. lives over the next decade, according to a report out Thursday by JAMA Network Open.
- The paper’s model found that the decision to end emergency temporary COVID-19 workplace protections was associated with 1,402 U.S. deaths in early 2022. Ending handgun-carry restrictions will lead to 152 additional firearm-related deaths annually and revoking the constitutional right to abortion will cause six to 15 deaths per year.
- The authors said the impacts could be long-lasting, writing, “the findings of this study suggest that these Supreme Court decisions may harm the health of US citizens for years, and possibly decades, to come.”
Last term, the conservative majority court issued a series of controversial rulings that drew criticism from the medical community.
First, in January 2022, the court ruled in National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration to overturn the Biden administration-backed OSHA emergency temporary standard that would have required employees at large employers to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
In June, the court issued New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc v. Bruen, voiding restrictions on the right to carry handguns in six states and the District of Columbia.
Then, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court overturned Roe v. Wade, immediately triggering abortion bans in 13 states.
The study authors used publicly available data to model the impact of each case over time, estimating a cumulative of nearly 3,000 preventable deaths will be attributable to the decisions over the next decade. Their analysis suggests the OSHA decision led to about 22,830 additional COVID-19 hospitalizations in 2022, Bruen will lead to 377 non-fatal firearm-related injuries annually and Dobbs will cause 982 cases of postpartum hemorrhage, and 454 cases of maternal morbidity each year. The most affected populations, researchers wrote, are likely to be working-age adults and adolescents.
The researchers said these numbers are conservative estimates. In their analysis of Bruen, for example, they did not attempt to model the likelihood that the decision will spill over to influence policy in other states, though legal scholars worry it will do so. Since the ruling there, have been at least 31 successful second amendment claims argued in federal courts, according to an analysis from Jacob Charles of Pepperdine University.
The erosion of gun control laws, particularly now, makes Americans less safe, experts have said. “The timing of [the Bruen] decision is unusually poor: firearm violence rates, already rising before COVID-19, have taken a historic spike since the start of the pandemic,” Jonathan Jay and Kalice Allen, both of the Boston University School of Public Health, wrote in the Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics.
Some state legislatures are taking steps to potentially mitigate negative health impacts of the rulings. In January, Minnesota became the first state post-Dobbs to pass a bill guaranteeing the right to an abortion. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced legislation to strengthen public carry laws following multiple mass shootings in the state.