Why Roe v. Wade is "safe"

Cody Hoesly

Americans have cause to worry if Sam Alito is approved by the Senate (although it is sure that some ultraconservative will be approved eventually, if not him).  Now I don't mean to play that game that says Roe v. Wade is all we should care about when it comes to the Supreme Court.  Yet it's the issue I want to focus on for a minute.

Here's the rub:  The Court will not overturn Roe.  As William Saletan so persuasively argues, the case overruling Roe would become the new Roe for liberals and progressives, galvanizing their movement, returning them to political success, destroying the conservative coalition, and embarrasing conservative claims to judicial moderation.  Instapundit also points out that such a decision would also be unwise because of what it would say about the court's integrity.

So why should Americans worry about Alito, or anyone else?  Because he (they) will do something much more sinister.  They will quietly, subtly undermine Roe (as they have begun doing) - leaving it intact in name only, but overruling it in effect.  That way, they can hide their work and its results.  Already the court has approved numerous restrictions on a woman's right to an abortion, including parental notification (with judicial bypass), 24-hour waiting periods (with information on the "facts" of abortion), reporting requirements, and bans on the use of public funds and facilities for abortions.  There have been few victories: women are allowed to obtain abortions without their husbands' consent, when their health is in danger, and using the method called Dilation & Evacuation (and perhaps also Dilation & Extraction).

But even those victories might prove short-lived.  The Court will soon hear two cases, one involving a state ban on abortions unless the woman's life is in danger (not just her health), and one involving a federal ban on Dilation & Evacuation.  Depending on how those cases go, we may be left with a version of Roe that is actually no Roe at all.  Under the ultraconservative Republican regime, as tempered by political reality, only those women with the means, the  money, the time, the health, the proper geographic location, and understanding parents (or an understanding judge), would be able to obtain abortions.  Abortion will remain a procedure generally reserved for rich, liberal, healthy, white women living in cities on the coasts.

All this means that the Left had better stop rallying around Roe.  Roe will stand (in name only) forever.  The Left will never get its own Roe with which to galvanize the country.  Rather, the Left needs to shift the focus of the debate, re-think and re-frame abortion, and start talking about the issues underlying Roe: the inadequacy of present services, the need for more freedom than permitted under existing law (let alone future rulings), and the importance of accessible abortion services to women's health and lives, their children, and every American family.

Comments

  • BlueNote (unverified)
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    I worry about articles like this (and the underlying sources) because they can be construed as "cover" for weak spined Dems in the Senate who are afraid to go to the mat over Alito. Roe v Wade stands for individual choice, freedom and privacy - the same rights that are being destroyed by Bush and friends. The Supreme Court only works if it reflects a cross-section of our society and its beliefs. Stacking it with ultra conservative Catholics is going to force their beliefs on everyone else for the next twenty years. NOW is the time to demand that our Senators do everything and anything to stop Alito's nomination including filibuster. Better to try and fail than to surrender.

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    There will be a revolt among American women that will make the protests against the Viet Nam War pale in comparison if their reproductive rights are restricted. Women will never give up their right to choose. It's about economic freedom. Fear not.

  • Chris McMullen (unverified)
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    If Roe v. Wade is overturned, then the decision wether to legalize abortion will be left up to individual states.

    Regardless, paulie is correct, the the vast majority of Americans overwhelmingly support a woman's right to choose. Abortion will never be banned.

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    Do you guys even read the column? All the way to the end?

    The point here is that Roe won't be overturned - but that's not enough. Does it matter if abortion is technically legal - but poor people can't get them, underage women can't get them, rural women can't get them, women with abusive partners can't get them, health insurance won't pay for them, no one provides them where you live, public hospitals won't provide them, private religious hospitals won't provide them, and the local women's clinic has shut down due to harassment and terrorist threats?

    Remember the closest place to get an abortion in North Dakota is in South Dakota. 70% of women in America live in a county where there is no place to get an abortion.

    Cody's point is that we need to stop obsessing about "protecting Roe" and rather need to obsess about protecting the more fundamental right to choose AND the right to be from coercion AND the actual ability to have an abortion when the choice has been made.

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    The problem with Paulie's version of reality is that once we have enough fundamentalists on the court to overturn, all of the grit and determination of outraged women will have zero effect. You don't get a vote with the Supremes. They won't even let you sing backup.

    <hr/>

    Cody may be right here, but I hope not, and none of the moves made by the Theocrats so far show that they have actual political intelligence as opposed to low cunning in their bag of tricks.

    Recent history demonstrates that they like to pile on and punish their opponents and the polls be damned. If they stay true to form and overturn, thus throwing the decision back to the states, they will have committed a blunder that will sink the Republican Party for the next twenty years.

    As someone (sorry don't remember who) said the other day, it was young women who have been under represented in the last few elections. They will all turn out screaming for the rights that they were taking for granted, while some large percentage of fundy Christians will quit voting having won on the only issue that tied them to the Corporatist wing of the Republican Party. My fundy Christian friends are already gagging at the corruption and cronyism that their so called leaders practice and feel zero ethical affinity for said bastards.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Way to go, Cody.

    I like young people getting involved in politics, unlike 75% of young America which watched cartoons the last time we voted for president.

    Now, if y'all weren't so naive...

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Way to go, Cody.

    I like young people getting involved in politics, unlike 75% of young America which watched cartoons the last time we voted for president.

    Now, if y'all weren't so naive...

  • Bill Holmer (unverified)
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    "70% of women in America live in a county where there is no place to get an abortion."

    Kari,

    Where did you get that statistic?

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    Roe has some importance, but it's largely window dressing compared to the big picture on Alito. Consider his opinion on the 3rd Circuit in Doe v. Groody... if he had had his way, he would allow for expansive warrantless strip searches of women and children. The case has the right running scared... consider the recent column by CIA outer extraordinaire, Robert Novak. He flat out lies about the facts of the case, suggesting that Alito's permissive attitude was for a mere pat down. The facts say otherwise, namely the majority opinion of the court itself. Of course little things like the facts never get in the way of Novak.

    The point? Watch these nominees verrrry closely. Choice is important, but Roe cannot be one's sole focus. If you want to geek out on this more, check out the Supreme Court Watch podcast.

  • dmrusso (unverified)
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    I agree that it is unlikely that Roe will be overturned. If it is, I will feel sorry for DC as the rain of protesting women will be larger than anything ever imagined.

    However, we do need to broaden this issue. Abortion and the power of Choice is not so simple. It is about POWER first and foremost. It is about empowering women to make their own healthcare choices. We need to broaden this debate to include other women's health issues which the Right seems to also shy away from.

    This, then is interconnect to other Social Justice issues... the fight against poverty, equal opportunity for African-Americans, Latinos and Gays and Lesbians. Hand-in-hand, we can win these fights together.

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    bill, you asked where I got that statistic. well, it turns out that I was slightly incorrect.

    87% of all counties in America do not have an abortion provider. 34% of women aged 15-44 live in those 87%. Also, 86 of the 276 metro areas have no abortion provider.

    The study is here.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Kari's right.

    Just try getting a legal abortion in Alabama or Mississippi.

    If you ARE lucky enough to get one, right-wing wackos like Eric "Mammas Boy" Rudolph, the sexually-confused, grade-school dropout doing hard time (h-a-r-d) will blow you up on the way out the door.

    Rebuild the south? Why? Cheap drinks and casino boats? No thanks!

    Signed, a former Atlantan

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Kari's right.

    Just try getting a legal abortion in Alabama or Mississippi.

    If you ARE lucky enough to get one, right-wing wackos like Eric "Mammas Boy" Rudolph, the sexually-confused, grade-school dropout doing hard time (h-a-r-d) will blow you up on the way out the door.

    Rebuild the south? Why? Cheap drinks and casino boats? No thanks!

    Signed, a former Atlantan

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    I got harassed going into a Planned Parenthood in Houston several times. I was a college student with just enough income to pay rent on my apartment and put some food in my fridge. As such, I got free annual exams at Planned Parenthood.

    They yell at you as you walk across the street from the parking lot, and they try to block you from entering the premises, which is surrounded by a large iron fence. You can't even get in the building without a valid drivers license or ID.

    Finally I got tired of them and told them to stop harassing people who were coming into the facility so that they wouldn't have an unexpected pregnancy and need an abortion. But apparently since I'm not skinny, they assume I'm pregnant and coming in for an abortion.

    The wackos seem to forget these clinics do more than just abortions, and teh vast majority of people entering the clinics are there for other reasons. Most visit Planned Parenthood for STD tests, annual exams, free birth control, or free condoms.

    Cody is right in that they're trying to hack away at Roe one piece at a time. Some people are so busy with Roe that they forget to look at the bigger picture.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Jenni,

    You say, "Some people are so busy with Roe that they forget to look at the bigger picture."

    Are you talking about Republicans or Democrats?

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    Bailie--

    The people I'm talking about are progressives/Dems. I'm sure a case can be made for Republicans as well, but the ones I'm talking about are Dems.

    Dems want to protect Roe so much that they often miss all the little pieces that are slowly being eaten out of Roe. Some of us are paying attention, and get alerts from groups like Planned Parenthood every time something comes up. But there are many that miss things like the small changes happening around the country to stop women from having an abortion without a husband's consent, difficulty in finding a pharmacy that carries the morning after pill and similar prescriptions, not allowing pharmacists to prescribe the morning after drugs, etc.

    They know how hard it's going to be to just outright turn over Roe. Instead they're doing it a piece at a time, hoping that people won't notice or won't mind these small changes.

    Without people fighting to stop those changes, abortions could become illegal even though we still have Roe.

  • LT (unverified)
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    If you Google "Congressman Tom Davis and Roe v. Wade, you are likely to find a quote like this.

    GOP leader fears backlash if Roe v. Wade is overturned By Nina Easton, Globe Staff | November 17, 2005

    WASHINGTON -- The Republican lawmaker who helped guide the GOP to an expanded majority in the House three years ago warned yesterday that a Supreme Court ruling overturning a woman's legal right to an abortion -- a possibility if the high court shifts further to the right -- could hurt his party's political prospects and cause a ''sea change" in suburban voting habits.

    Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee through the 2002 election, said that if the Supreme Court threw out Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established that abortion rights were protected by the Constitution, ''you're going to have a lot of very nervous suburban candidates."

    At a breakfast gathering of reporters, Davis said Republicans have a political cushion with voters as long as Roe is intact. Currently, ''you can be prolife and no one feels that's a threat to someone having to make a difficult decision" if abortion is illegal, he said.

    My guess is a Republican congressman knows more about the effect of such a decision than any blogger.

  • Bill Holmer (unverified)
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    Kari,

    Thanks for the link. At least you were almost half right.

  • KM (unverified)
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    There are a number of misconceptions regarding Planned Parenthood and abortion. The anti-choice fanatics have done a terrific job in creating the impression that PP is an abortion mill. 96% of PPCW's (Planned Parenthood Columbia-Willamette) services are unrelated to abortion focusing on pregnancy prevention, STD prevention & treatment, and general sexual health education.

    I have been active in the fight for a woman's right to choose since I was in high school (grad in 88). While in college I was horrified at the number of young women who took the right to medical care for granted. Unfortunately, I fear the point of this post may be all too accurate. Far too many (with the exception of those of us active & in the trenches), view Roe as our saving grace. It is not.

    There was recently a Frontline story about abortion in Mississippi. This is the reality of abortion in our country. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/clinic/view/

    Access to healthcare is being limited in more ways than just limiting access to abortion. It is increasingly difficult for women to obtain birth control in many communities.

    I'm generally not one to promote the idea of class warfare but this is definitely a case where a group of wealthy men are at war with poor women. Poor, sometimes un-educated women are the ones who suffer from limited or no access.

    You can find a list of the ways G Bush is affecting women's access to safe and affordable healthcare here: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/pp2/portal/files/portal/medicalinfo/femalesexualhealth/report-030114-rights.xml

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    you guyz ssmellll

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