SCOTUS Abortion Decision Just Proved Again Why Elections Matter

We might be witnessing the beginning of the end of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision that legalized safe abortions in 1973.

Despite indefatigable legal attempts to block it, the most radical abortion law in the country took effect Tuesday in Texas after SCOTUS justices Gorsuch, Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh, and Barrett voted to uphold the draconian Senate Bill 8; aka the “heartbeat bill.”

Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Chief Justice John Roberts, dissented.

In her dissent Justice Sonia Sotomayor articulated:

“The court’s order is stunning. Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”

Texas is now the only of 12 states with early pregnancy abortion bans to have surmounted legal challenges.

The law bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy when most women don’t yet realize they may be pregnant, makes no exception for cases of rape or incest, and provides private citizens the vigilante power to sue abortion providers and individuals who “aid and abet” those seeking to terminate pregnancies.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, Whole Woman’s Health chief executive, lamented:

“This morning I woke up feeling a deep sadness. This law opens up a bounty system, a vigilante kind of system that can call into question anyone who supports access to abortion.”

State abortion providers predict it will prevent around 85% of Texas women from accessing abortion care.

Amanda Williams, executive director of the Lilith Fund, an abortion support group and plaintiff in a suit challenging the law, warned:

“Abortion access will be thrown into absolute chaos. Unfortunately, many people who need access the most will slip through the cracks, as we have seen over the years with the relentless attacks here in our state.

“It is unbelievable that Texas politicians have gotten away with this devastating and cruel law that will harm so many.”

While women with the means to terminate pregnancies could conceivably travel to other states with more progressive reproductive laws, the ban’s impact will most heavily impact lower-income Americans who lack these means as well as people of color.

President Joe Biden expressed dismay at the high court’s ruling.

He spoke Thursday, stating:

“The Supreme Court’s ruling overnight is an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for almost fifty years. By allowing a law to go into effect that empowers private citizens in Texas to sue health care providers, family members supporting a woman exercising her right to choose after six weeks, or even a friend who drives her to a hospital or clinic, it unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts.”

He then declared to “launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision,” explaining:

 “One reason I became the first president in history to create a Gender Policy Council was to be prepared to react to such assaults on women’s rights. Hence, I am directing that Council and the Office of the White House Counsel to launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to see what steps the federal government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”

Make no mistake.

Those who five years ago proclaimed both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two sides of the same coin and elections don’t matter are seeing the consequences of the 2016 election writ large–again.

After all, Donald Trump–an illegitimate president who lost the popular vote–appointed three justices to the United States Supreme Court: Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.

Each of them voted to help take women back half a century.

Hillary Clinton would not have appointed them.

Her appointees would have protected women’s reproductive freedoms.

This SCOTUS decision to uphold the Texas bill would not have occurred.

Make no mistake.

Those 12 other states with early pregnancy abortion bans have now been given a green light to proliferate Taliban-esque control over women.

But if that happens, then what?

A popular mantra of republican voters is the GOP’s supposedly “right-to-life” stance on abortion.

If Roe vs. Wade is relegated to history’s dustbin, what have republicans got left?

Author and SiriusXM Progress channel host Thom Hartmann asks:

“Could this abortion ban and its vigilantism be the tipping point that activates women and allies to take down the GOP?”

He explains:

“Ever since the Reagan election of 1980 the GOP has been the party of billionaires and big business. The problem they’ve always faced, though, is that there aren’t enough morbidly rich voters to win elections and big companies can’t vote at all.

“To get around that, they’ve brought together a coalition of fervent true believers, sometimes called ‘single issue voters,’ representing a variety of ‘special interests.’  These include:

    • Working-class white racists (who Nixon first reached out to with his ‘Southern Strategy’ in 1968)
    • Sexually insecure male gun and military-garb fetishists
    • Upper-middle-class and rural ‘anti-welfare’ anti-tax white people
    • ‘Christian’ religious freaks who want their sect running the government
    • Anti-abortion ‘pro-life’ activists

“Without all of these five groups, Republicans don’t have enough voters to take on the Democratic Party’s coalition of educated urban whites, racial minorities, gender minorities and women, Social Security/Medicare-age voters and young people.”

He then inquires:

“Will a final successful abortion ban take enough steam out of their most fervent followers that they’ll begin to lose elections in a bigger way than they are now?

“Could it even turn some Republican voters—who always just gave lip-service to pro-life causes but never really thought such a Handmaid’s Tale dystopia could ever happen—against the Party?”

In placating its hard-core anti-choice base, the republican party just mobilized millions of Democratic voters.

Make no mistake.

The SCOTUS ruling is this court’s Dred-Scott decision.

It’s that consequential.

Hopefully it will not result in overturning Roe.

Hopefully the Biden administration’s “whole of government effort” will be successful in protecting it.

But the question is now on the table: Is this the hill on which republicans–the so-called “right-to-lifers”–want to die?

Image credit: Flickr

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.