Overturning Roe v. Wade is just the beginning

Justice should not need a fence to feel safe Victoria Pickering via Flickr

Slow-burn strategy is the name of the game

The Christian right understands politics. Democrats don’t. That’s why they lost Roe v. Wade.

In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States decided, concerning the legal case Roe v. Wade, that access to abortion was a Constitutional right. On June 24, 2022, not even fifty years later, the Supreme Court overturned that decision. Since Roe was overturned, abortion is now banned or severely restricted in 14 states. Similar bans are being attempted by 10 additional states. It’s been two months since Roe was overturned. Now, over 85 million Americans have had their bodily autonomy and freedom to choose ripped away from them. 

In the remaining 26 states, the future of abortion is unclear, for it no longer enjoys Constitutional protection. The war over abortion has entered a new phase. The Christian right has been preparing for this moment since Roe v. Wade was first implemented in 1973. The same cannot be said of the Democrats, whose incompetence now jeopardizes all Americans’ right to access abortion. 

Shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision, President Joe Biden appeared at the White House to make a speech. In an increasingly rare moment of lucidity, he said, “Make no mistake! This decision is a culmination of a deliberate effort, over decades, to upset the balance of our law. It’s a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court, in my view.” A reasonable assessment. However, if Biden – and pro-choice Democrats generally – knew that overturning Roe was decades in the making, then why didn’t they do anything to stop it?

The fact is Roe v. Wade was a house of cards from the beginning. The rationale that made abortion a Constitutional right was grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment. Put simply, the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees Americans a fundamental “right to privacy,” among other things. After Roe v. Wade, this right to privacy included the right to have an abortion. This is the shaky legal precedent that guaranteed people could access abortion in the United States. What could have been done to make the right to abortion better protected, to make it impervious to the whims of the judiciary? The Democrats – the allegedly feminist party in the United States – proposed to codify the right to abortion in Federal law through Congress; obviously to no avail. The Democrats never had the political wherewithal to pull this off. Their opposition is too great, too organized, and too fanatical to let this happen.

Unsurprisingly, the Christian right in America has in its service an elaborate web of special interest groups and lobbyists. This labyrinth of political reaction – motivated by misogyny, queerphobia, voter suppression, and big capital – tenaciously pursues its ends with cunning and expediency. That is, the Christian right is willing to do what it takes to see their agenda fulfilled, unlike the Democrats. While the Democrats quibbled over Congressional procedure, the Christian right was patiently and methodically chipping away at the right to abortion. 

In the event that Roe was overturned, 13 states had already implemented trigger laws that immediately banned “medically unnecessary” abortion. This isn’t to mention the states where abortion is so severely restricted that it is, in effect, already banned. For example, the handful of states that allow abortion only within the first six weeks of gestation. The Supreme Court itself has been packed with conservative justices over the past few decades as well. Trump appointed three Supreme Court justices. All three are current or former members of the Federalist Society, a right-wing legal organization whose stated goal is to challenge the allegedly leftist ideology that dominates elite American law schools. Five out of nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic, even though only about 20 per cent of Americans are Catholics themselves. This decades-long Machiavellian campaign made the overturning of Roe v. Wade a foregone conclusion.

But it is much more than abortion healthcare. Many legal scholars and political commentators say that overturning Roe may also jeopardize other rights. For example, Samuel Nelson, a political science professor at the University of Toledo, stated that “the right to contraception, same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, freedom from forced sterilization, and the right to educate one’s children are now subject to reversal.”

 The Democrats have proven time and again that they can’t be relied on to protect the vulnerable and marginalized. They should learn from the Christian right instead. Expediency, cynicism, and unwavering resolve produce results. So that slogan of the second wave feminists must be revived: abortion on demand and without apology.


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