Today I’m going to touch on a subject that is controversial, to say the least: abortion.
A number of states, the most recent being Alabama, have recently passed highly restrictive and misogynistic abortion laws. Anti-abortion evangelicals are patting themselves on the backs thinking, no doubt, that they have once again proven themselves the rulers over women’s bodies. But make no mistake … these laws are only a tool. The legislators and governors who have passed these laws are well aware that they don’t hold water, for when there is a conflict between federal and state law, federal law trumps state laws, no pun intended.
The federal law on abortion was established in 1973 with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v Wade in which the Court ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion. It is not within the rights of the State of Alabama or the State of Georgia to change, ignore, or override that ruling. Period.
So … why are they passing these ‘illegal laws’, you might ask. Because … long story short, they are hoping for a lawsuit against them that will reach the Supreme Court. And when it does, they are hoping, believing, that the Supreme Court will then use that lawsuit as a basis to overturn Roe v Wade.
One of Donald Trump’s campaign promises that gained him a large number of followers was that he would put justices on the Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v Wade. It is an emotional issue that gained him the support of the evangelicals. However, the Supreme Court cannot simply say, “Let’s overturn a decades-old decision because the president would like us to.” A case must come before them that challenges that decision before they can take it under advisement.
You might notice that the states did not pass these dranconian abortion laws when President Barack Obama was in office and the Supreme Court was still largely apolitical. You’ll also notice that Trump was in such a hurry to appoint a second justice to the Court that he had a quiet little talk with Justice Kennedy, and shortly thereafter Justice Kennedy announced his imminent retirement. And you’ll further notice that there was a mad dash by Trump and his boot-licking Senate to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, thereby giving the court a 5-4 right-wing, conservative majority, despite the fact that the Court is intended to be apolitical.
The stage is set … now the states who have passed these anti-abortion laws that rob women of their rights to have control over their own bodies will sit back and wait for the inevitable lawsuits claiming, rightly, that the states have no right to restrict a woman’s right of choice. Then will begin the inevitable back and forth through the courts until sometime next year, perhaps even sooner, the cases will reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Trump is relying on the five conservative justices to vote in favour of overturning Roe v Wade. Those justices are:
- Clarence Thomas
- Samuel Alito
- John Roberts (Chief Justice)
- Neil Gorsuch
- Brett Kavanuagh
Justice Steven Breyer warned in a dissent to another decision earlier this week …
“Overruling a case always requires special justification. I understand that, because opportunities to correct old errors are rare, judges may be tempted to seize every opportunity to overrule cases they believe to have been wrongly decided. But the law can retain the necessary stability only if this court resists that temptation, overruling prior precedent only when the circumstances demand it.”
The Alabama bill, which has been passed by the state legislature and is expected to be signed into ‘law’ by Governor Kay Ivey, bans abortions at every stage of pregnancy and criminalizes the procedure for doctors, who could be charged with felonies and face up to 99 years in prison. The Georgia bill, recently passed and signed by Governor Brian Kemp (remember him … the guy with the gun pointed at his daughter’s boyfriend?), is only slightly less restrictive, banning abortion after about 6 weeks, often before a woman even realizes she is pregnant.
Those who are so dead-set against a woman’s right of choice, call themselves “pro-life”, but this is a misnomer, as I have noted before. They are often the same people who support the death penalty. They are often the people who protest their tax dollars going to help feed and clothe the poor. Many are the same ones who fought so hard against ACA, which provided affordable healthcare to those who would not otherwise have any. Pro-life? No, only anti-women’s rights.
If people are so against abortion, doesn’t it make sense to support such things as birth control, family planning and counseling, and other measures to prevent unwanted pregnancies? But no, the evangelicals are against all of those, too. They support de-funding such organizations as Planned Parenthood who help with all women’s health issues, and they argue against company-sponsored health insurance plans covering birth control. Sorry, folks, you cannot have it both ways!
Thus far through the years, state laws attempting to restrict abortion have all been struck down by the Supreme Court as being unconstitutional. Will that precedent hold? I cannot say for sure, but I’m less confident now than I would have been two years ago. More than 60% of the people in this nation support a woman’s right of choice, but these days it seems that the minority is the only voice that is heard. If the Supreme Court ultimately overturns Roe v Wade, it will be a slap in the face to every woman in the U.S. What will be next? Will they take away our right to own property? Our right to vote? Think about it.