The Universal Notebook: The threat to Roe v. Wade

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Fifty-nine percent of Americans (that’s 62 percent of women and 56 percent of men) believe women should have the right to terminate a pregnancy under most circumstances.

Sixty-seven percent of the U.S. Supreme Court justices, including three appointed by Donald Trump, believe the majority of American people are wrong.

Edgar Allen BeemThat 6-3 conservative majority has put the future of Roe v. Wade, the case that established women’s reproductive rights, in serious jeopardy.

The justices are using a Mississippi law to try to gut Roe. Mississippi, possibly the most backward state in the union, has a law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks. Texas has proposed banning abortions after just six weeks, when many women don’t even know they are pregnant. 

Most states prohibit abortions after a fetus becomes viable, generally about 25 weeks. In 1973, Roe v. Wade set the standard at 28 weeks.

We can’t have places like Mississippi and Texas setting the standard for the entire nation. That’s where states’ rights come in.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh is pleased to hide his anti-abortion biases behind the weasel position that each state should be able to make its abortion laws. Kavanaugh would presumably also let each state make its civil rights laws. Schools across the Bible Belt would still be segregated if states were allowed to do that.

Human rights, civil rights, voting rights, and reproductive rights are the province of the federal government, not the states.   

Here in moderate Maine, I’m guessing women’s right to choose will be safe even if the court turns abortion over to the states, but that’s no thanks to Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who cast the deciding vote to put Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court bench. Kavanaugh told her he would respect precedent, that the right to an abortion is settled federal law.

He lied.

Susan Collins, however, is not naïve, so I have to believe she is something far worse: cynical. She just needed Kavanaugh to say he would respect Roe v. Wade so she could vote for him, whether he meant it or not. 

As a result of Trump and his enablers packing the court with the right-wing ideologue Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court is no longer a legitimate institution. When the court manages to get a decision right it is now cause for surprise and celebration. The only way to remedy the imbalance may be to expand the court.

Trump Republicans glory in restricting individual rights. It would be easier to accept their anti-abortion stance were they truly pro-life, but that would mean opposing war and capital punishment, too. Unless you support sex education and contraception, you’re not serious about preventing unwanted pregnancies and abortions. 

The hypocrisy of the radicals on the right is clear when they advance the “my body, my choice” argument when it comes to vaccinations but deny women the same freedom of choice when it comes to abortions. 

The chauvinistic GOP wants to force women to carry every pregnancy to term, even in the case of rape. Eighty-four percent of Americans support abortion in the case of rape, so that 16 percent are some nasty human beings. No compassionate person would take such a stand, so please don’t tell me opponents of abortion act out of love.

Ultimately, unless we can somehow purge this country of the unholy influence of pro-lifers, white supremacists, vigilantes, gun crazies, anti-vaxxers, and religious extremists, I’m afraid the future of America as a democracy is in grave danger.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.