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Roe v. Wade’s defeat continues to wreak havoc months later

Illustration of a fetus in an abstract background. TIM GIORLANDO/THE STATESMAN

Abortion rights in America are taking a nosedive. In the month since Roe v. Wade’s defeat, states have put abortion on the ballot. Eleven states bar even rape and incest victims from getting abortions. In some places, children are crossing state lines to get abortions. 

Republicans such as Justice Clarence Thomas and Sen. Ted Cruz are openly plotting to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage. Thomas has also stated that several other landmark cases should be “reconsidered,” including Griswold v. Connecticut, which gave the right to contraceptives, and Lawrence v. Texas, which gave the right to engage in private sexual acts. Thomas’ statement now leaves the door open for conservative lawmakers to pass discriminatory legislation, which is exactly what occurred with Roe v. Wade on June 24th. What does this tell us? Roe v. Wade could just be the beginning of people in America losing the rights that their grandparents had. It also tells us that the trust we have in America’s highest court is wavering.

You don’t need it explained that this is one of the darkest moments in American history. A far-right White nationalist movement — consisting of dark money groups, media moguls, authoritarian Republican politicians and an arch-reactionary Supreme Court — is winning its battle against vulnerable minorities. Women, Black and Indigenous people of color, the LGBTQ* community and disabled people are more vulnerable than ever. The battle for abortion rights has implications well beyond its own extreme importance.

The overturning of a landmark case like Roe is setting a precedent for cases to come, and we need to hold those in power accountable.

We fool ourselves into only blaming people who hate us for this travesty of justice. Bad things don’t only happen because of hateful people — complacency is just as destructive. The Biden administration’s failure to codify Roe into federal law is one of its most disastrous choices, replicating the failure by the Obama administration. Vice President Kamala Harris is brushing off talk of using federal land to provide abortions. And frankly, a bipartisan Congress where overwhelmingly popular policies are defeated by Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema can hardly be said to be a democracy.

On top of this, various politicians are using the overturning of Roe v. Wade as a fundraising opportunity. Democratic politicians wasted no time in emailing, texting and tweeting out fundraising opportunities, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, who emailed supporters only 30 minutes after the Roe decision was released to the public. All those who sent out these notices said it was important to donate in order to codify Roe. These same politicians have had a constant opportunity to protect abortion rights, and instead they’ve waited too long.

What’s being left out of the conversation is just as destructive. The impact of abortion bans on working class Black and Brown people is catastrophic. Abortion bans have severe antisemitic implications. And transgender men and non-binary people who are capable of pregnancy are rapidly excluded, even as 35 anti-trans bills have been introduced in 2022 alone. 

It’s difficult to overstate how severe this situation is. Yet, we can’t cave to despair. The majority of Americans support abortion rights. Groups of people are fighting for reproductive rights everyday. Only a ruthlessly theocratic minority supports doing away with abortion. This is where our problem lies with trust; the Supreme Court is supposed to promise equal justice under law.

How can one call this decision “just” when a majority of us have made it clear that it is anything but? The overturning of a case creates instability regarding other cases; what else can we expect to be overturned? What else can we expect to become a precedent in our country?

The distrust of the Supreme Court runs further than ignoring the majority opinion of Americans. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barret and Brett Kavanagh, all nominated by former President Donald Trump, said in their confirmation hearings that they believed Roe v. Wade was “precedent.” In legal terms, “precedent” refers to a court decision that is considered an authority for deciding subsequent cases involving identical or similar facts, or similar legal issues. In the simplest language, this means that all three judges claimed to see Roe v. Wade as something that decided cases, not something that was on their agenda of being eliminated. How can we trust a court that pursues its own agenda instead of keeping its promises to the public? The answer is simple: we can’t. 

So what should the majority do? It would seem that saying “Yes, I believe people should be able to get abortions,” is not enough. Yet, that seems to be where our efforts end. We need to take action, whether that means attending local marches, writing letters to our local politicians or fundraising to help those who need to cross state lines for abortions. But, more than anything, we need to hold those in power accountable. 

As women, cisgender and transgender, we reject the attempt to police our bodies. We oppose all measures that would harm and even kill people like us.  It’s time to hold those in power accountable for their actions. November marks the 2022 Midterm Elections, which makes now a good time for us all to educate ourselves on those who will take a stand for us, and those who will yet again fail us.

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