(Op-Ed)

Opinion: Overturning Roe vs. Wade Could Mean The Dismantling Of So Much More

It’s a true domino effect.

By Jennifer Wright
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overturning roe vs. wade

Content Warning: This piece contains descriptions of the methods women have used to self-induce abortions.

The attack on civil liberties in America will begin with overturning Roe vs. Wade —and it will not end there.

On Tuesday, Justice Alito’s draft of an opinion declaring the Supreme Court’s intention to overturn Roe. Vs. Wade, the 1973 ruling allowing American women access to safe legal abortions, leaked. Alito wrote in the draft, which has been confirmed as authentic, that “the inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.”

What’s frightening about this is that in our nation’s history, if you go back far enough, the only people who have always had rights have been white male landowners.

The overturn of Roe v. Wade would mean that individual states get to determine whether women can legally have abortions there. They almost certainly will remain legal in blue states like California and New York. So, this might not sound so bad if you’re someone who can afford to travel across state lines, which many lower income women in need of abortions cannot. But Republicans are already introducing bills that would stop people from traveling out of state to obtain abortions.

No amount of pleasant conversation will make them moderate their response. Their movement is virtually unstoppable at this point, unless the members of the left in power take huge swings to overturn it. In my experience it is absolutely useless to try to point out that abortion rates are approximately the same in places where it is legal and places where it is criminalized — criminalization merely makes the number of unsafe abortions rise. In countries where the procedure is entirely criminalized, like El Salvador, women have taken rat poison, pesticides, and thrust knitting needles into their cervixes to induce an abortion. In America, as recently as 2015, a woman used a coat hanger to end her pregnancy. And just earlier this year, in Poland, a woman just died because the state refused to perform an abortion to remove her fetus after its heart had stopped beating.

Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

It’s also foolish to point out that, legally, you cannot injure one person to save another’s life, and pregnancy is nothing if not injurious to the woman experiencing it, especially in the industrialized nation with the highest maternal mortality rate. No one gets through pregnancy and childbirth completely unscathed, and men’s bodies will never be similarly brutalized as a result of having had sex.

None of that matters. As far as anti-abortionists are concerned, a woman’s purpose is to bear children. If women do not want to bear children, well, the Right believes that’s no longer her choice, it’s theirs. And if they refuse to yield their bodily autonomy to someone else, they should be punished.

This ruling will not stop with the states. Anyone who thinks that anti-abortionists with a conservative majority on the Supreme Court (a majority who have already shown themselves amenable to their cause) will not push to a nation-wide ban is poorly informed. Nineteen republican Senators and over a hundred Republicans in the House have already signed on to co-sponsor the anti-Abortion Life At Conception Act, which would grant a fetus equal rights under the law.

This ruling is similarly bad news for any group of minorities. Alito dissented from legalizing gay marriage on the basis that the 14th Amendment only protects rights rooted in the nation’s history and “it is beyond dispute that the right to same-sex marriage is not among those rights.” That’s more or less the same argument he’s making to overturn Roe, at a time when conservatives are cheering on the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Jonathan Mitchell — who was behind the six week abortion ban in Texas — has already said “The news is not as good for those who hope to preserve the court-invented rights to homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage,” which he calls “as lawless as Roe.”

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The notion that certain rights are not deeply rooted in history could also be extended to rulings like those allowing for interracial marriage. Kim Wehle, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Baltimore told NBC, “I fear that the court is on a course to roll back all kinds of protections to back at the time of the founding, when women and Black people had no rights.”

Make no mistake, conservatives are serious when they say they want to “make America great again.” They specifically mean a time when America was great for cis white men, and everyone else knew their place. If you were a woman, that place was to look pretty and have babies. If you were gay, it was to hide in the shadows. If you were a minority it was to serve white people with a gleeful smile.

Which is why the ruling written by Alito is so terrifying. The same people who think that this regressive future seems impossible are the people who claimed that Roe vs. Wade would never be overturned a decade ago, and that the very notion was hysterical. When people tell you who they are, and that they’re going to make America “great” again, I am begging you to start believing them.