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Projected Health Outcomes Associated With 3 US Supreme Court Decisions in 2022

Gaffney A, Himmelstein DU, Dickman S, et al. Projected Health Outcomes Associated With 3 US Supreme Court Decisions in 2022 on COVID-19 Workplace Protections, Handgun-Carry Restrictions, and Abortion Rights. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(6):e2315578. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.15578. “Several recent US Supreme Court rulings have drawn criticism from the medical community, but their health consequences have not been quantitatively evaluated. The US Supreme Court has issued myriad rulings with ramifications for public health and medical care, but few have drawn such widespread criticism, including from the medical community, or carried such large potential consequences for the health of US citizens health as 3 landmark cases that it decided in 2022. The first ruling, issued in January 2022 in National Federation of Independent Business v Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), overturned the OSHA emergency temporary standard (ETS) that would have required large employers to implement measures to protect their workers from COVID-19. Subsequently, over the course of 8 days in June 2022, the court issued several decisions with major public health consequences. In New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc v Bruen, Superintendent of New York State Police (Bruen), the court decision voided laws in 6 states and the District of Columbia restricting the right to carry handguns, a decision likely to increase handgun carrying and possibly undermine other gun regulations. In Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization (Dobbs), the court overturned Roe v Wade, which had protected abortion rights since 1973; abortion bans went into effect immediately in several states and more are forthcoming. Many commentators have criticized these decisions as a threat to public health.3,10,13,14 However, none have comprehensively modeled their quantitative impact. We projected the outcomes of these decisions on mortality and other adverse health consequences.

  • Question  What are the probable health consequences of 3 US Supreme Court decisions in 2022 that invalidated COVID-19 workplace protections, voided state laws on handgun-carry restrictions, and revoked the constitutional right to abortion?
  • Findings  In this decision analytical modeling study, the model projected that the Supreme Court ruling to invalidate COVID-19 workplace protections was associated with 1402 deaths in early 2022. The model also projected that the court’s decision to end handgun-carry restrictions will result in 152 additional firearm-related deaths annually, and that its decision to revoke the constitutional right to abortion will result in 6 to 15 deaths and hundreds of cases of peripartum morbidity each year.
  • Meaning  These findings suggest that over a decade, the 3 Supreme Court decisions examined here will contribute to the loss of nearly 3000 US lives and possibly many more…”

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