Opinion: A justice to protect our fundamental freedoms

By CINDE WARMINGTON

Published: 09-01-2023 6:00 AM

Cinde Warmington represents District 2 on the Executive Council. She is running for NH governor in 2024.

Governor Sununu will soon make a decision that will impact the fundamental freedom of all Granite Staters when he chooses a nominee to replace New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Gary Hicks, whose term ends in November. I am calling on the governor to nominate a justice who will protect our freedoms, including the freedom to make our own reproductive health care decisions and the right to access safe, legal abortion care in our state.

For years, I and many others have warned that our U.S. Supreme Court has been moving in a dangerous, ideological direction where we can no longer rely upon it to be the ultimate protector of our fundamental rights. Regretfully, the Court’s recent decisions taking away access to safe, legal abortion, sanctioning discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, and undermining equity in higher education have proven that prediction true.

As we move forward, individual states will play a greater role in determining the boundaries of our freedoms, meaning Granite Staters must increasingly depend on the New Hampshire Supreme Court to protect our rights. This makes every single appointment to our state Supreme Court even more important than ever.

The governor routinely calls himself “pro-choice,” while at the same time bragging that, by signing an abortion ban, he has done more on the pro-life issue than anyone. His last nomination to the New Hampshire Supreme Court was Chief Justice Gordon MacDonald who has a long history of anti-abortion activism. Given the governor’s track record, it’s not clear what kind of justice he will name next. But it is clear what kind of justice the people of New Hampshire want. Granite Staters believe in freedom and overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health care decisions without government interference.

Last year, when it overturned Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court expressly took away a constitutional right from the American people. The Court’s decision eliminates protected access to safe, legal abortion care and allows state government officials to insert themselves into our private, personal reproductive health care decisions. Earlier this summer, in a stunning rejection of precedent, the U.S. Supreme Court also set back progress towards equality when it rejected affirmative action in higher education and sanctioned discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community by businesses who choose not to serve them.

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We cannot expect the U.S. Supreme Court to stop there. It has proven ready and willing to ignore precedent and judicial norms in order to impose its own ideological view of the world on all of us. This fall, it is taking up more cases with the potential to drastically reshape our lives and our democracy.

Put simply, we can no longer rely on the U.S. Supreme Court to protect our freedoms or our constitutional rights. Now more than ever, our state courts, and the New Hampshire Supreme Court in particular are critical to the future of our civil rights and liberties.

This includes the freedom for New Hampshire’s citizens to make their own healthcare decisions without government interference. It includes our right to vote, our right to privacy, and our right to access public accommodations, employment, and housing without discrimination, and much more.

Every justice’s voice on our five-member state Supreme Court truly matters. This is why it is so important that Gov. Sununu brings forward a judicial candidate who has demonstrated their commitment to protecting our fundamental rights and to honoring Granite Staters’ commitment to freedom. It should be someone who has a proven track record of making decisions based on the facts and the law, and exercising independent judgment — not someone driven by the kind of political ideology that has so undermined and corrupted the integrity of our U.S. Supreme Court.

Whoever ends up filling Justice Hicks’ seat will be in a position to directly impact the breadth and endurance of our freedom for decades to come. This is why, as executive councilor, I will stand up for Granite Staters in seeking a justice who respects the law and precedent, has an independent voice, and is committed to protecting and enhancing freedom for all Granite Staters.

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