Gavel

Merriam-Webster defines judicial activism as “the practice in the judiciary of protecting or expanding individual rights through decisions that depart from established precedent or are independent of or in opposition to supposed constitutional or legislative intent.”

Generally, the phrase is used to identify “undesirable” exercises of power, with little agreement on which instances are undesirable. It is sometimes used by one who believes the court has gone beyond its power in enforcing the Constitution, but again, there is little agreement between parties on what this looks like.

Judicial activism has been responsible for the Court’s worst decisions and it’s best — both Dred Scott v. Sandford and Brown v. Board of Education are considered judicial activism.

So what does this mean today?

The recent ruling of Whole Woman’s Health v. Reeve, which prohibits most abortions after six weeks, is seen as judicial activism. Its polarity from Roe v. Wade has since set the Court up to face a case this fall on the overturning of that ruling.

This term is filled with tough issues and an even tougher divided Court. Right now, the court is broken down 6-3 for conservatives to liberals. Justices Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito are the Court’s conservatives, with Justice John Roberts (moderate), Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor as the rest.

Here’s a rundown of cases that might provoke judicial activism this term.

On Nov. 3, the Court will hear a case about strict gun carrying laws, triggered by a law in New York. The last major ruling was D.C. v. Heller 2010, and a lot has changed regarding gun violence in the past decade.

On Dec. 1, the court will hear another abortion case on a Mississippi law that bars most abortion after 15 weeks. This is plainly against Roe v. Wade, in which abortion is legal before fetal vitality, around 23-24 weeks.

With six conservative-leaning judges, the court seems to be turning against abortion rights. The grounds of stare decisis, which means let the ruling stand, means the traditionalist Chief Justice Roberts will probably rule against the Mississippi law.

Roberts is the most moderate on the Court, and arguably a good leader. Leaning toward consensus and incrementalism, he will be faced with leading a Court losing public support as its judges become increasingly partisan.

U.S. v. Abu Zubaydah will debate the constitutionality of the government’s right to block a detainee at Guantánamo Bay from getting information on his C.I.A.-issued torturers on the grounds of exposing state secrets. U.S. v. Tsarnaev and Ramirez v. Collier reevaluate the death penalty. Tsarnaev revisits a lower cases ruling to cancel the death penalty placed on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who helped carry out the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013. Collier will evaluate the death penalty and religion, as an inmate submitted a request for his pastor to be able to touch him and pray aloud with him in the death chamber.

Finally, Carson v. Makin will probe the Espinoza v. Montana case from the last term. This case evaluates whether Maine can exclude religious schools that offer sectarian education from a state tuition program.

Judicial activism should not be scary, but it is. Knowing that six conservative-leaning judges can completely change the future of a menstruating person’s bodily autonomy is nauseating. Carson v. Makin can change the level of separation between church and state. These cases will have heavy consequences, and either way, people will cry that it's judicial activism.

Judicial activism goes wrong when it takes away human rights. The most intense case this term is the Mississippi case, which determines whether the mother or the child is more important. This ruling will determine the future of abortion legality in the majority of Republican states across the nation.

Our Court does not need to be nonpartisan to care about its people. Doing what is right for the progress and longevity of our population should not be a partisan issue.

Sydney Fluker is an A&E editor. Follow them on Twitter: @sydneymfluker.