Supreme Court takes us backwards as a nation by overturning Roe v. Wade
Women don’t matter and they shouldn’t have agency over their own bodies, the conservative justices might as well have said in their support for Justice Samuel Alito’s abhorrent opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.
The writing had been on the wall ever since the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade made headlines in early May. The draft sent shock waves through America, where more than half of us believe abortion should remain legal.
Even with that dreadful inevitability looming, when the highest court in the land finally issued its ruling Friday and ended a half-century of legal precedent on abortion, it was a colossal gut punch to millions of women — and to everyone who supports women’s rights.
“Women don’t matter and they shouldn’t have full agency over their own bodies,” the conservative justices might as well have said in supporting Justice Samuel Alito’s abhorrent opinion.
The court’s decision was issued a day after the conservative majority struck down a New York law limiting the right to carry guns in public. The message is clear: The right to own and carry deadly weapons is more important to uphold than the rights of women to make their own decisions on whether to carry a pregnancy to term.
Conservative preaching about the sanctity of life as a rationale to strip away the right to abortion rings more than hollow when, faced with one horrific mass shooting after another, conservative justices recoil at any encroachment on the right to carry firearms.
Even Chief Justice John Roberts, who voted with the majority to uphold the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that was at issue in the ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, suggested in a separate concurring opinion that his fellow conservative justices went too far by overturning Roe altogether.
That is telling.
Americans’ faith in the Supreme Court was already waning. A Quinnipiac University poll from mid-May found that more than half — 52% — of Americans disapprove of how the court handles its job; 63% said the court is motivated mainly by politics, not law.
Friday’s ruling, tragically, will only deepen the disapproval and distrust of one of our nation’s core institutions.
Trigger laws, and more to come
The sweeping and frightening impact of Roe’s reversal on millions of women, especially lower-income women who already faced more barriers to obtaining abortions and reproductive health care, cannot be overstated.
Already, “trigger laws” banning abortion, meant to go into effect once Roe was overturned, are poised to go into effect in 13 states. That includes two of Illinois’ neighbors, Missouri and Kentucky. Roughly half of states are expected to eventually ban abortions.
With Illinois certain to get an influx of women seeking a safe and legal abortion, Gov. J.B. Pritzker vowed to call the General Assembly into special session to “further enshrine” reproductive protections here.
There’s also a very real threat of a national ban on abortion should Republicans gain control of Congress and the presidency.
No one should think a national ban can’t happen. Too many Americans naively thought Roe would never be overturned, taking Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh at their word when they said during their confirmation hearings that, in their minds, Roe was settled legal precedent.
The makeup of Congress matters. Voters who care about women’s rights should keep that in mind when they cast their ballots.
Other rights at risk
In their dissent, Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor point out that young women now have “fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had.”
We didn’t move forward as a nation. We regressed — and could go back even further.
Roe and the related case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, “were from the beginning, and are even more now, embedded in core constitutional concepts of individual freedom, and of the equal rights of citizens to decide on the shape of their lives,” the dissenting justices wrote.
It’s revealing, and alarming, that the liberal justices warned what might be ahead.
“No one should be confident that this majority is done with its work. The right Roe and Casey recognized does not stand alone,” the justices wrote, noting previous rulings on contraception access, same-sex marriage and same-sex relations. “They are all part of the same constitutional fabric, protecting autonomous decision-making over the most personal of life decisions.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, in another separate concurring opinion, said rulings allowing same-sex marriage, same-sex consensual relations and access to contraception should be overturned, too.
Be careful what you ask for, Justice Thomas. The court’s ruling allowing interracial marriage could end up in the crosshairs as well.
Abortion is dead, anti-abortion activists said in celebration. Yet women will keep seeking abortions, legally or illegally, as they have in the past. Overturning Roe only makes it harder and more dangerous. Some women could face criminal prosecution for seeking abortions, perhaps even for trying to order abortion pills from out-of-state.
Abortions didn’t die on Friday. What did die was a big part of our credibility as a nation that champions and protects freedom.
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