It’s not surprising that Roe v. Wade was formally overturned by our super conservative court today. That’s because the opinion was leaked back in May. It would have been surprising had it changed. Still, it’s shocking nonetheless.
I’m hardly the first pundit to point out that this is like a dog chasing a car and managing to catch the car. Giving the Republican base what they want has been a recurring theme for this court, constructed carefully over nearly fifty years of effort.
Just yesterday we got another 6-3 ruling from the court that invalidated lots of state laws that prohibited the public carry of firearms. We have such a law right here in Massachusetts. I am pissed. I moved to Massachusetts in part because the legislators here are sensible. Our state is one of the safest places in the country because of its gun laws.
But it’s going to be more Wild West in my state, thanks to the court. I live in the western part of the state, the part of the state that elected Scott Brown as our senator after Ted Kennedy died. This area is not exactly liberal but not exactly conservative either. Owning a firearm is more of a hassle here, but I’m certain there are enough Swamp Yankees (as we call them) around here to start openly carrying them. The rest of us will be up in arms, so to speak, the first time we saddle up next to one of these strangers at the bar at the local Applebees.
Today’s decision still allows abortions in states that choose to allow them. If you think this will satisfy the antiabortion crowd, you are incredibly naïve. This is part one of a larger plan to disallow abortions nationwide. It’s not that difficult. Republicans need a majority in both chambers and a control of the presidency. When the inevitable case is brought to the court to invalidate the law, don’t expect a 6-3 conservative court to overturn it.
But this is really part of a much larger agenda to impose minority values on the majority of the people. Justice Thomas was pretty open about his agenda. In his opinion, he states the court should look at reversing all sorts of precedents, like its gay marriage ruling. Expect states to also take aim at the court’s decision in the 1960s invalidating state birth control laws. In short, if nothing changes, we’re moving pretty quickly toward A Handmaid’s Tale world.
All this plus gerrymandering, voter suppression and outright corruption of the electoral process to allow states to send electors at variance with the popular vote of the state and you have all the trappings of permanent minority rule and, essentially, authoritarianism. That’s really what this is all about.
Lack of control drives Republicans batty. They can only feel comfortable if everyone follows rules they set. This gives privileges to those they like (like the gun ruling) while taking it away from those they don’t like (poor pregnant women and minorities.) If you are skeptical, try to find one state with antiabortion laws that also attempts to feed the babies born that would otherwise be aborted. (Hint: none exist. In fact, generally these states keep reducing what measly subsidies exist for poor people.)
The problem is that Republicans think people will be sheep. People aren’t sheep. When abortion was last outlawed, those with the means got them anyhow. Lots of women who couldn’t still managed to get them through unofficial networks while lots of them died attempting their own abortions too.
Moreover, women will remember when abortion was safe, legal and local. They will resent that their reproductive choices were taken away from them. Add in hoped for additional persecution against the LGBTQIA+ community, much of it well underway, and they are feeding rebellion against them and driving demand for the liberal values they so obviously abhor. Also, they drive civil insurrection, which rather than controls society simply adds to its instability.
The whole point of a democratic government is to ensure that government represents the will of the people. Because our system of government gave extraordinary power to southern and rural states, it was lopsided from the beginning. Additional tactics like filibuster rules in the Senate make the problem far worse. Authoritarian governments rarely last long but they are great at causing civil unrest, insurrection and death. Democratic governments are supposed to engender listening and compromise, which engenders trust in government. Only 36% of Americans trust our Supreme Court to act impartially. Approval of Congress is at a low 20%.
Democrats would be wise to run on a new Contract with America in the coming midterms. This badly timed ruling on abortion gives them plenty of fodder to convince the public. There will be plenty of news stories about the ill effects of today’s rulings by then. The contract should include a promise to end filibuster rules at least for any proposal to guarantee abortion rights. What’s more important than that though is to reform the Supreme Court.
I’ve long argued for packing the Supreme Court. Restoring its balance so that it is more representative of the people, rather than disproportionately representative of our most extreme conservatives, is the only real solution to the hellscape Republicans and our super conservative Supreme Court seem anxious to unleash on us.