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It took the U.S. Supreme Court just seven days last June to set back public health by 50 years. Several cases before the court this term could continue that assault.

This week on the First Opinion Podcast, law professor Lawrence O. Gostin explores how these cases — some of which are not explicitly about public health — might worsen the myriad health inequalities that became so evident throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. From voting rights to watershed protections currently in place under the Clean Water Act, the cases on the docket of the conservative Supreme Court this fall put the legal determinants of health front and center.

There are, of course, checks on the court, and public action is one of them. “I believe we really shouldn’t always be in despair,” Gostin said. “We must never, ever fail to tell our stories and to fight for health and to fight for justice. That’s our duty as Americans.”


This conversation emerged from the First Opinion essay, “Will there be a Supreme assault on public health?” that Gostin, a university professor of law at Georgetown Law, wrote with Michelle A. Williams, the dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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