Following the oral arguments on the Mississippi Abortion Law on December 1, many legal scholars have said that five of the six conservatives on the Supreme Court (all but Chief Justice John Roberts) seem inclined to overrule Roe v Wade.
If the Court overrules Roe, it could be a case where pro-life proponents including the likely five justices who vote to do so (Alito, Barrett, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Thomas) may want to be careful about that for which they wish. The reason is because the decision would likely be handed down in late June or early July of 2022, and mid-term elections would be just a few months later in November.
As of now, should Roe be overturned, approximately half the fifty states have laws in place that would ban virtually all abortions. That means that tens of millions of women who currently have limited rights and resources to receive an abortion would be shut out of that choice in their state of residence. And since so many of these states are adjacent to one another in the South and the Midwest, women would be many hundreds of miles away from a clinic in a state where abortion would still be legal and accessible.
Progressives have been reluctant to talk about why abortion should be safe or legal, other than the basic issue of women’s rights. Rarely do choice proponents mention how difficult it can be for a woman, or a man, to be a parent when they lose a job, they are still in school, they have a life planned in professions where they cannot easily be removed from a prescribed path. Rarely do they talk about the economics of parenthood. Rarely do they talk about while adoption is an excellent alternative, it’s not for everyone. Rarely do they talk about all the pain and agony that a woman must endure when she is in the midst of an unwanted pregnancy. Rarely do they talk about how many of the women with unwanted pregnancies are actually girls, often victims of rape or incest.
Simply put, pro-choice proponents have not been pissed off enough, at least not publicly so. But if Roe is overturned this coming summer, millions of women and men who conveniently thought that this issue would fade away will be confronted with a singular commonality about their choice of abortion: massive inconvenience and expense. It may be that there are as many reasons for a woman to opt for an abortion as there are women, but virtually all will be united in wanting to get the federal government to reinstate their right to control their bodies.
If this happens, pro-choice candidates will get unprecedented numbers of committed and effective volunteers. The airwaves will be saturated with commercials on both sides of the issue, but for those who are pro-choice, it will be something new. The myopic vision of many who are pro-life will be unmasked as it becomes more clear that they have no right to be involved in a decision about something that they don’t own. It will be recognized as the worst kind of over-reaching.
If next summer and fall we see a mobilized pro-choice movement unparalleled since anti-Vietnam and civil rights efforts of the ’60s and ’70s, Democratic candidates could have the support to win in states and congressional districts that are presently considered deep red. Joe Biden will still have two years left in his presidency and he might have more workable majorities in both houses of Congress.
Eventually, Supreme Court vacancies will occur when we have a Democratic president and a Senate that has reformed its rules to better allow the will of the majority to prevail.
It has happened in our nation’s history that government has moved aggressively to protect civil liberties, most particularly in the sixty’s decade of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Perhaps, just perhaps, overturning Roe will have the unintended result of expanding human rights. For that, we will all be far better.