First Past Roe, Winner Take All

Author Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

Last week, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) once again demonstrated its monarchical authority over democracy as it appears poised to strike down the landmark 1973 Roe versus Wade case that legalized abortion.

While the nation’s highest court will likely not hand down its ruling on Dobbs versus Jackson Women’s Health Organization for another six months or so, the assault on women’s reproductive rights has taken a consequential leap forward.

With six right-wingers on the Court–three of whom are Trump appointees with questionable stances on Roe v. Wade–the so-called “religious” right might actually get what it has been fighting 40 years to achieve.

And it’s more than reproductive freedoms these pseudo Christians are after.

Well armed with lawyers, “the ‘dark money’ global empire of the U.S. Christian right” is perfectly positioned to reverse progress on abortion access.

But their efforts aren’t so much ideological as they are pecuniary.

An openDemocracy analysis reports anti-choice groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Federalist Society, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and Heartbeat International have “been involved in recent efforts to limit reproductive rights in Europe and Latin America.”

Between 2016 and 2020, the National Christian Foundation (NCF) and Fidelity Charitable donated $93 million to anti-choice organizations.

Top Spenders Amount (2016-2019)
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) $15.3m
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) $5.7m
Focus on the Family $3.5m
Federalist Society $2.8m

Credit: Truthout

Also in the dark money empire’s corner is Trump-appointed justice Amy Coney Barrett, who has ties to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a well-funded group that has played the long game, expecting to have a high court justice like Barrett on the bench.

During last week’s oral arguments, she asked pro-choice advocates (rhetorically?) if banning abortion would be so terrible if women could simply abandon their newborns at local fire stations for adoption.

Like kittens in a box?

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Justice Brett Kavanaugh assured Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) it is his view Roe v. Wade is “settled law.”

However, last week, he said:

 “If you think about some of the most important cases, the most consequential cases in this court’s history, there’s a string of them where the cases overruled precedent. If we think that the prior precedents are seriously wrong, if that, why then doesn’t the history of this court’s practice with respect to those cases tell us that the right answer is actually a return to the position of neutrality and—and not stick with those precedents in the same way that all those other cases didn’t?”

Chief Justice Roberts called a 15-week abortion ban “not a dramatic departure from viability.”

Clarence Thomas pulled the “enumerated powers” trick by pointing out that the right to abortion does not appear in the Constitution.

Calling out “the stench that this creates in the public perception that the constitution and its reading are just political acts,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor fired back at his premise with

One of the three liberal justices, Justice Stephen Breyer, cautioned that the Court “better be damn sure” before overturning a landmark case like Roe v. Wade.

While the crusade to once again ban abortion in America is not new, there have been several significant pieces of legislation in the past two years that led the present case right up the Supreme Court’s steps.

More than a dozen states in 2019 sought to outlaw abortion.

That was the year Alabama opened the proverbial flood gates after governor Kay Ivey signed the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation that defines pregnancy beginning at the moment of conception and sends doctors who perform abortions for cases other than extreme risk to pregnant mothers’ lives off to face 99 years in prison, even in cases of rape and incest.

Shortly thereafter, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a similar bill banning abortion after six weeks, a point at which doctors can usually detect a fetal heartbeat, before most women even realize they are pregnant.

A month before, Ohio governor Mike DeWine signed a nearly identical bill.

Missouri advanced a bill 24-10 to criminalize abortions at 8 weeks.

LouisianaMissouriSouth Carolina, and Tennessee advanced anti-choice bills.

MarylandMinnesotaNew YorkTexas, and West Virginia introduced anti-choice legislation.

If ruled in the plaintiff’s favor, the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case will open the door to rolling back or even eliminating decades of progress for same-sex marriage, civil rights, and even rights we often take for granted, like the freedom to assemble and free speech guaranteed under the First Amendment.

Thom Hartmann, author and progressive radio talk show host of “The Thom Hartmann Program,” wrote in a recent piece titled “Next Up On GOP’s Agenda: Stripping Women Of Political & Economic Power“:

“Next up on the GOP’s agenda to strip women of political and economic power will be banning most forms of birth control used today, including birth control pills and the IUD.

“Step one is to hyper-regulate ‘morning after pills.'”

Hartmann concludes:

“And this is just the start. Today the Court is hearing a case out of Maine that could require states to pay for the tuition of all students attending religious schools, using taxpayer money that normally funds public schools. This would include forcing states to pay for religious schools that openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ students and staff, and teach children that being gay is a sin.

“Once Republicans are done with birth control they’ll be coming for gay marriage and, ultimately, broader civil rights laws themselves including, like in Hungary (their new role model), ending the rights to assembly, free-speech, and due process.”

If pro-choice provisions in Roe v. Wade had been codified into law in the past 48 years, this probably wouldn’t be happening.

But it is.

It’s about fundamentalist groups imposing Sharia law on women, LGBTQ+ Americans, and religious minorities so we can “make America great again”.

In many ways, 2022 is going to be a very consequential year.

Let’s make sure as much as we can it isn’t the year in which we lose democracy.

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, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.