The U.S. Supreme Court being poised to eliminate American women’s legal right to have an abortion was not on my totalitarian bingo card for this week.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, because we’ve been headed in that direction for decades. Such a development, if true, would be in perfect harmony with our repressive times, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine abroad, while at home free elections are curtailed, teachers muzzled and books banned.
What’s the common thread? Authoritarianism strikes at weakness. That’s why it imposes such a topsy-turvy kind of morality: attacking gays but not adulterers, undocumented immigrants but not those who cheat on their taxes. The bully doesn’t pick on someone stronger.
Hence women. It might be news to you that women occupy a degraded, second-tier position, still, in 2022 America. But they do, obviously, and overturning Roe would be ample proof. Here, honey, we’ll decide that for you ...
Otherwise, this push would be off-brand for libertarians. The same people who collapsed writhing and crying over the intrusion, the oppression, the tyranny of the state demanding they wear a cotton mask during a deadly pandemic manage to jump up, revivified, and rush into your gynecologist’s office, plop themselves onto a low rolling stool, and invite you into the stirrups.
That the news leaked, a draft Supreme Court judgment shared by Politico Monday night, is significant. While Washington beltway types, of course, bemoan the departure from standard legal practice, it is a reminder that when zealots are allowed to steer law away from the will of the people — 59% of Americans think abortion should be legal — the first casualty is the law.
Let’s refresh ourselves on the history of religion-stoked legal interdiction. That whole prohibition-against-alcohol thing didn’t turn out so well, did it? Rather than quash drinking, it spread the practice across society, supercharging lawlessness. Marijuana used to be a crime; now cannabis shops are on every suburban street corner, big as banks, elegant as jewelry stores.
Abortion is different because it is a squeamish medical procedure related to sex, involving the destruction of a potential child, and into that crack in our wall of liberty religious fanatics have driven their assault, trumpeting all the while that they are doing something intensely moral — saving babies — when what they are actually doing is something intensely immoral: harassing women — mostly young, low-income women — and invading their private lives.
What now? The truth is, we never should have left it up to the courts to decide something so important. Roe was a bad case, and it was reckless to let American liberties hang by that thread. This should have been settled in the legislature years ago.
There is reason to hope. One rule of totalitarianism is, it always overreaches and never stops, since the bullying is the point, the eternal junkie scramble to find somebody to be better than. Success banning abortion will only turn the attention of the American taliban to gay marriage, anti-racism, immigration, the rest of the scary objects crowding their fear closet. They never give up. They have to be defeated.
This development should surprise no one. When the Washington Post flashed, “News Alert: Majority of Supreme Court is ready to strike down Roe v. Wade, leaked document shows,” at 9:25 p.m. Monday, my reaction was, “Well, duh. And Napoleon escaped from Elba ...” You buy a ticket to Springfield, you get on a train heading to Springfield, and — surprise, surprise — you wind up in Springfield.
For now. The good news is, we know how this ends. Abortion is legal in Spain. It is legal in Ireland, and in Mexico, and other countries where once it was the fiercest taboo. It will be legal here, too, eventually. The past that red staters claw at was never there, and we are never going back. Black people aren’t going to start stepping off the sidewalk, touching their hats, at the approach of a white person. American history isn’t going to become a thrilling narrative of undiluted glory. And women aren’t being forced pregnant back into the kitchen.
Someday. But right now, we’re on the wrong train — ”we” being decent, respectful people who prefer to allow others to make their own moral choices without coercion — speeding in the wrong direction. Our work is cut out for us.