If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it might not be the disaster that many of my fellow Lefties fear.
One of the reasons why so many Democratic politicians are scared of overturning Roe v. Wade is that they believe it would make abortion illegal in most parts of the country and lead to a terrifying descent into an Inquisition-style culture war where Republicans punish Democrats for their beliefs and force women to give birth against their will.
This seems hard to deny – after all, if we look at places where abortion is mostly banned, those countries do indeed have highly conservative governments seeking to restrict rights and persecuting anyone who disagrees with them politically. So such fears may seem credible when applied to a hypothetical future without Roe.
But post-Roe, our horrible right-wing Trumpist politicians will actually need to follow through on their promises, and their promises will be to ban abortion, not just at a state level, but in Congress. A newly elected President Trump, with an emboldened MAGA Senate and House, would have run on a promise to decimate a woman’s right to choose. Last time, Trump’s anti-choice bona fides didn’t matter so much, because he was restrained by Roe; this time around, voters will take notice.
And if he does try to make good on his promises, he will face significant opposition from the American people – who, despite what the Right believes, are actually mostly pro-choice. A Gallup poll from May 2018 found that 60% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases; only 37% think it should be illegal.
This is not to say that there would be no conservative backlash – there would certainly be some states where abortion would remain legal and others where it would be banned. But the idea that overturning Roe would trigger a wave of right-wing oppression is based on a false understanding of both our current politics and our history. And it may keep the Left in power.
What about precedent, you ask? OK, the Right believes Roe was wrongly decided, but many on both the Left and Right argue that the Court, by overturning precedent that it believes was wrong, is politicizing itself.
But there’s a problem with this argument: it isn’t true. The Court has overturned precedent before, including in cases involving abortion. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, the Court upheld Roe but allowed states to place restrictions on abortion so long as they didn’t place an “undue burden” on women seeking the procedure. In 2007, the Court overturned its own decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which had upheld a ban on so-called “partial-birth” abortions. And a leftward leaning Court has also overturned precedent, to great acclaim, most notably its pro-slavery decision, Dred Scott v. Sandford.
The point is, the Supreme Court has a long history of overturning precedent, and it is not inherently wrong for them to do so. The question is whether Roe was right or wrong; and we will continue to disagree. But regardless of who has the right side of that question, Roe now seems to belong to the past. And this may not be bad for us, comrades. It may just be good for the Left.
So if Roe is overturned, it means that our politicians will actually need to do something about abortion. And whether you agree or disagree with those who believe in restricting abortion rights, there’s no denying that having our politicians on record about this issue can only benefit us politically. It will either lead to a backlash against the Right by women and other voters who care about reproductive freedom, or it might force Republicans to pivot away from their current anti-choice stance in order to appeal to a wider base of voters – something they’ve tried before with varying degrees of success. Either way, we get better politics and a more honest debate rather than endless posturing around an
So there’s no reason to believe that overturning Roe would trigger a right-wing takeover or a descent into an oppressive culture war. It might actually be good for the Left, by making politicians responsible for their decisions and forcing them to own an issue that they have been too cowardly to address honestly for far too long.
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