Is There Choice after Roe v. Wade?
George W. is about to live out a Right Wing wet dream: he will appoint not one, but probably TWO Supreme Court justices. Op Ed contributors are busily crunching numbers to predict the future of Roe v. Wade taking into account the original "activist judge" super duo Scalia and Thomas, who are poised to overturn it in a hearbeat.
The entire country seems to think the future of women's reproductive freedom lies at the steps of the Supreme Court -- a foolish miscalculation and lost opportunity for both sides. It's been 32 years since Roe v. Wade and a lot has happened:
- 30 million women have had safe, legal abortions
- Female enrollment in medical schools has gone from below 10 percent to over 40 percent.
- Our Bodies, Ourselves is in its 8th printing.
- Emergency contraception is available in emergency rooms or pharmacies
- Books, talk shows, and the internet provide women with more information about their health than ever before
- 56 percent of Americans support legal abortion in all cases
- 14 percent of Americans oppose legal abortion in all cases
- More than three-quarters of Americans strongly support sex education in schools and availability of emergency contraception in cases of rape and incest
- 60 percent of Americans want Bush to appoint justices who will uphold Roe v Wade
- Two-thirds of Americans do NOT want the Senate to simply "rubber stamp" Supreme Court appointees.
I'm not so sure some of these figures are different than they would have been pre-Roe. When Justice Harry Blackmun wrote his opinion, he based it in large part on the prevailing sentiment of the day which held that legal abortions were good public policy. Illegal abortions encouraged unlawful and unsafe behavior, both inside and outside the doctor's office.
The past three decades have also empowered women, no matter how many of them may resist the term "feminist." Now that two generations have grown up expecting their health care needs to be met on demand, do we really believe they will accept being told "no"? Especially when those limiting their choice are predominantly white and male? (I have a personal rule about debating women's health issues -- unless you have a uterus, you don't get to speak).
Ultimately, losing Roe v Wade might be the best thing ever to happen to today's women's movement. It might energize a group of women who never had to fight for reproductive freedom. The Righties, on the other hand, might just have to put up or shut up. Aside from a few fringe nuts who don't seem to have full-time jobs or who prefer shotguns to reason, what do they really have? And, in the words of my boyfriend, if abortion DOES become illegal, what will the Republicans use to keep their base together so they can keep supporting the rich and powerful and fucking over the poor and weak?
In the meantime, both sides are losing rich opportunities to have rational, deep conversations among constitutents, lawmakers, and policy makers. For 32 years we have been able to talk about the pros and cons of abortion in the abstract and steeped with emotion, but there are many Americans looking for a coherent discussion to help them reconcile their faith and values to sensible public policy.
Those conversations will do more to improve the freedom and health of women than all the demonstrations, supreme court justices, and snipers in the world.