After roughly a half-century of painstakingly-earned progress towards a more inclusive, tolerant country, the United States is backsliding back into a more oppressive regime. Rights and liberties that had long been settled matters of law, not to mention norms of American society, are under concerted attack from Republican lawmakers, judges and activists at the local, state and federal levels. With the most conservative Supreme Court in nearly 100 years, these attacks are no longer just campaign chatter — they have a real chance at overturning that hard-won progress, creating the more oppressive America hard-line conservatives have craved since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Among the most sinister efforts currently underway in Republican circles is the fight to ban abortion and overturn Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 73, 1973), the landmark Supreme Court decision which provided that “state criminal abortion laws … that except from criminality only a life-saving procedure on the mother’s behalf without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests involved violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” In layman’s terms, that decision — which also included “a woman’s qualified right to terminate her pregnancy” — ensured that women had the right to terminate their pregnancy under the Constitution, and states could not pass laws to interfere with that right. So how, then, have over 100 anti-abortion measures been passed at the state level in 2021 alone?
It may seem suspect, at first glance, that so many states have successfully enacted laws that intentionally violate one of the most significant Supreme Court decisions in the nation’s history. However, a quick look at the composition of the Supreme Court clears it all right up. The Supreme Court has a staunch 6-3 conservative majority, thanks to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., jamming three counter-majoritarian Supreme Court nominations down the country’s proverbial throat. Those three Justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — have abysmal records on abortion. The other three conservatives on the Supreme Court — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — comprise its “old guard.” These three have spent decades combatting a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. Thomas — not just a despicable political actor, but an overall disgusting excuse for a human being — has also been credibly accused of sexual harassment. While he has not been convicted of that crime, it really shouldn’t be difficult — upon analysis of the allegations, not to mention the character assassination of his accuser by Republican senators — to determine that the allegations have merit. He is not the only conservative justice with a rap sheet — Kavanaugh was accused of sexual harassment in high school and college, as well.
That there are two men on the Supreme Court who clearly don’t have enough respect for the opposite sex or female bodily autonomy should, and does, scare the living hell out of a woman who might need — or want — an abortion. This does, unfortunately, go beyond the Justices’ personal transgressions. Thomas has flatly stated, in his official capacity as a Justice of the Supreme Court, that the Constitution does not protect abortion. Justice Alito, a man uniquely hostile to basic civil rights for just about everyone, has claimed particular pride in his work arguing “that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.” Roberts, while sympathetic to the Roe decision as binding precedent for the Supreme Court, has repeatedly expressed reservations about a woman’s right to choose.
We can spend days parsing and exposing the vast number of avenues this Supreme Court might take in order to subjugate all women as subordinate to the whims of rich, old, white men. The problem is that they only need one of those avenues to be open in order to permit abortion bans in any state that tries to enact one. The Court’s conservative majority seems to have a plan: hear a case regarding a Texas “heartbeat bill” — a law that bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Such a law might seem innocuous — prudent, even — to an untrained eye. Unfortunately, though, it’s actually quite insidious. Fetal heartbeats are normally detected at about six weeks of pregnancy; that’s most often well before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. So the law is, for any practical purpose, a total ban on abortion in the state of Texas.
The irony of these policies coming from the party of COVID-19 denial and personality cults dedicated to a man with 26 credible sexual harassment/assault allegations should not be lost on anyone. Conservatives have spent the last 20 months thoroughly lambasting public health measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save American lives. The party that is directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths is now standing up on its soapbox and professing the preciousness of every human life. It’s almost funny. That this particular group of people would stick its neck out over something so brazenly hypocritical and malevolent is, actually, a joke. Except they’re not kidding. What conservatives are telling the country is: “We believe every human being has a right to life — until they’re born. Then they’re on their own.”
The situation now before women in this country is as follows: a draconian conservative Supreme Court — of whose six-Justice majority, five were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, and all of whom are hostile to abortion rights — poised to decide a case that has the potential to dramatically affect the lives of half the country’s population by overturning a 50-year old civil rights protection supported by 59% of the public. What’s more, there’s not a single, solitary thing anyone can do about it; it’s completely in the Supreme Court’s hands. What is readily apparent is that among the two schools of political thought in the U.S., one views women as equal under the law to men, and one views them as a subject class to be controlled and, in some cases, put at risk of imminent bodily harm. The message coming from conservatives to women nationwide is abundantly clear: “We don’t give a shit about you, whether you will be able to provide for your unborn child, or whether you live or die.”
Jack Roshco is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.