“Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Abortion-rights and anti-abortion demonstrators gather outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
It has been one dream of conservatives for decades: overturning Roe vs. Wade. The landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision guaranteed women the right to abortion, in accordance with the 9th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Now that goal has been achieved: earlier today, June 24, the Court has overturned Roe; thus gutting nearly a half century of reproductive freedom for women in the U.S.
It’s a stunning move and it’s left abortion supporters shell-shocked. It doesn’t seem to matter that the majority of Americans support abortion to some extent. Six justices on the Supreme Court have decided they don’t like the concept of abortion, so no woman should have access to it and no one should help a woman burdened with a crisis pregnancy. It is the first time in U.S. history that a constitutional right has been granted and then rescinded.
Social and religious conservatives are ecstatic about this decision. Although the Roe decision startled many people in 1973, the ruling didn’t really become an issue until the 1980s; when the evangelical Christian movement started to make its intrusive presence known. They saw the election of Ronald Reagan as assurance that abortion would be outlawed in the U.S.
At least 26 states were ready to outlaw abortion under most circumstances, should Roe be overturned. Now that it has, they are moving towards the annihilation. Last year the legislature in my home state of Texas passed the so-called “Heartbeat Act”, which bans abortion after 6 weeks (before many women know they’re pregnant) and only allows it in cases where the mother’s life is endangered. That means rape and incest victims will be forced to carry their pregnancies to term. Any woman (or girl) who obtains an abortion and/or anyone who assists in that procedure could face up to $10,000 in statutory damages and face prison time. Noticeably it doesn’t say anything about prosecuting men who rape women or girls.
The overturning of Roe perhaps will be one of Donald Trump’s greatest legacies, aside from his dismal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. But it won’t so much be his legacy as it will be that of right-wing extremists – the people who loudly proclaim to cherish personal liberty and freedom, but in practice, mean it only for themselves. Everyone else’s personal liberty – that is, people who aren’t exactly like them – is somehow subjective.
Abortion opponents are now presenting – as they always have – what they consider viable solutions to the dilemma of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies; quick fixes that are ridiculously quaint and utopian. They recommend creating a society where every child comes into the world loved and respected; that women always have a safe and effective way to carry out their undesired pregnancies. It’s tantamount to beauty pageant contestants expressing their wish for the blind to see and the lame to walk. It’s wonderfully idealistic, yet extraordinarily delusional. Such answers to some of life’s most complex issues are typical of the conservative mindset: simple and unencumbered. That’s why I always say my brain is too big to be conservative.
In the 49 years since Roe was passed, it’s estimated that some 60 million abortions have taken place in the United States. Abortion adversaries groan that it means some 60 million children never got a chance to grow up and have fulfilling lives. But millions of children have come into the world under the best of circumstances and have never lived fulfilling lives. The future is always uncertain, and occasionally things go awry in families.
It’s also possible that those estimated 60 million children could have been subjected to abuse and neglect. Children who come into the world unwanted often end up being unloved. I have to wonder if abortion opponents are going to dish out any additional cash to help support all those children. It’s easy for them to lounge in their ivory towers – the way religious leaders often do – and bestow well wishes upon troubled souls. Good intentions don’t pay diaper and formula bills; they don’t provide housing and education; they don’t deal with the daily angst of raising children. They’re glossy words that lack substance, unless solid and concrete action is taken to make those lives better.
Liberals and moderates are already concerned that other Supreme Court decisions are at risk, such as Griswold and Lawrence. Even Brown and Loving may come under similar attack. As part of his decision to overturn Roe, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” referring to decisions on contraception, sodomy and same-sex marriage respectively.
Remember, the original Roe decision developed under the auspices of the right to privacy and equal protection under the law. Those are essential and undeniable features of a truly democratic society. Stripping any particular group of basic human rights isn’t a sign of a moral culture, as many social conservatives would have us believe. It’s more emblematic of a totalitarian world; a universe where a handful of people have blessed themselves with the power to decide what is and what is not appropriate for everyone else.
If abortion opponents think this Dobbs decision will end abortion in the United States once and forever, they are mistaken. After the initial shock has worn off (which is already happening), people will begin to fight back and find ways around it. Whether right-wing extremists like it or not, abortion will happen. There will always be women who find themselves in very difficult situations and feel they must end a pregnancy. It’s been happening for centuries and it will continue happening, even though a band of self-righteous elitists demand otherwise.
Just wait for it. They’ve awoken a giant.