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"The only rights that are expanding right now are gun rights" | UToledo professor says abortion may be just the beginning

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' separate opinion in the Dobbs case raises questions about rights that were previously thought to be guaranteed.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The landmark Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade represents one of the rare instances in American history that a prior decision has been rolled back.

The ruling doesn't make abortion illegal across the country, but the right to abortion is no longer guaranteed throughout the nation. Instead, it leaves the question for states to decide.

Although there are still a lot of questions on what will happen next, the court's decision has raised the specter that other rights, ruled to be guaranteed by previous court decisions, could also be rolled back.

"We've assumed that the progress of rights was always in a direction of expanding rights. The only rights that are expanding right now are gun rights," University of Toledo political science professor, Dr. Sam Nelson said.

RELATED: Who voted against Roe v. Wade?

Every other American right is contracting, according to Dr. Nelson.

He says that's especially the case with the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

A decision that was expected, but was still shocking to millions when it finally came down.

"I do think that the court probably was somewhat sensitive to the timing, but I think they would have made this decision next year, right before the election if that's how their calendar had worked out," said Nelson.

It's unprecedented territory and he believes abortion is just the start.

In a separate opinion released on Friday Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”  

The Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell cases established that access to contraception, gay sex between consenting adults, and gay marriage were guaranteed rights under the constitution.

After Justice Clarence Thomas comments to overturn other these landmark rulings, Nelson says every right we thought was constitutionally guaranteed is now in jeopardy.

RELATED: Yes, Congress could pass a federal law that supersedes a Supreme Court ruling

"He's inviting states to pass laws overturning marriage equality, passing bans on contraception, things like that," said Nelson. "So we're going to see that at the court. Maybe not next year, it might take two or three years for that to percolate, but we are going to see that."

We've already seen states, including Ohio, ban or severely limit access to abortion. 

But according to Nelson, there's nothing that says the court's ruling will stay at the state level.

"The court is not the last word on what rights are. Congress could act. Congress could act to protect abortion rights in the country. Congress could act to ban abortion in the entire country," said Nelson.

As for the role this will have in upcoming elections, Nelson believes this will lead to a higher voter turnout, especially among Democratic voters.


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