This week, the United States reached and then toppled over the edge. After years of agitating, planning and strategizing, the evangelical fascist wing of the Republican Party finally saw their efforts pay off. The Supreme Court of the United States is poised to overturn its own 1973 decision in the historical Roe v. Wade case. This has long been a banner around which the political right has rallied, claiming that the ruling ushered in some kind of era of bloodlust that has deprived the nation of tens of millions of souls. It has been one of the cornerstones of the culture wars, defending the sanctity and purity of unborn life from the rapacious hordes of godless liberals eager to snuff out all that is good in the world. The decision has been portrayed as some kind of harbinger of the End Times, the final stop along the route to communism and irrefutable evidence that the political left wants nothing more than to make Christians go extinct.
Let us be clear: there is no evidence that the political left enjoys abortions. There is no evidence that millions of women use abortion access as a regular means of birth control. There is no medically accepted evidence to suggest that ‘life’ begins at conception. The purpose of defending Roe v. Wade has never been so that drive-thru abortion clinics can pop up on every street corner and so ‘pro-choice’ advocates can bathe in an unending river of 32-week fetal tissue. It has always been about preserving abortion as a safe and legal option for women who decide that is the route that best serves their needs. Advocates have never suggested that abortion is their primary, secondary or even tertiary option to address an undesired pregnancy — only that it should be made available. Being ‘pro-choice’ does not make a person anti-baby or anti-family, but it does make them against compulsory pregnancy.
Although the Roe decision has often been presented as a struggle between the factions of ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’, the reality seems much more a struggle between the factions of pro-theocracy and pro-secularism. Nearly every argument from the ‘pro-life’ crowd involves either a religious undertone or explicit zealotry shouted from a place of absolute sanctimoniousness. Most every ‘pro-choice’ argument tries to keep the debate in the realm of law. This is, in many respects, the only way to defend the indefensible — move the argument into a metaphysical space where logic, reason and rationalism cannot compete. It is the same position taken by those who insist creationism should be taught in public schools or that same-sex marriage should be banned — the Bible says so, so there. The issue cannot, in most forums, even be discussed with any hope of civility or adherence to the rules of proper debate because the asymmetric attacks come immediately and in great numbers.
The war cry of the pro-theocracy faction can easily be heard in the countless social media posts made by those neck deep in the movement.
The message is clear: the ruling is, above all else, a political win. If Donald Trump had not been in a position to wield his political power to nominate three justices to the Supreme Court (all of whom had to get political confirmation), the tectonic shift we have experienced would never have happened and the decision would have remained established law. The invocation of their deity only serves to underscore the deep interest people like Mills and Cawthorn have in moving the United States further from its secular history and towards an evangelical theocracy.
The shift towards theocracy also helps achieve another favorite Republican goal: the weakening of social welfare programs and assigning sole responsibility for all misfortune upon individuals. Aborting a pregnancy is a personal decision unlike any other, but it also can overlap a host of societal issues: sex education, contraceptive access, cost of living, cost of childcare, cost of healthcare, homelessness, child abuse, drug abuse and psychiatric health. The political right would have us believe that abortion is a simple question of morality: a good person keeps a pregnancy (however ill-advised or dangerous) and a bad person aborts a pregnancy. This oversimplification ignores all the potential ramifications of unprepared or unstable motherhood. Can or should 14 year old girls be expected to carry a pregnancy to term? Can or should rape victims be expected to do the same? Can or should drug addicted women, trafficked women, homeless women, mentally unwell women, unemployed women, abused women and economically dependent women always be expected to stay pregnant just to satisfy the obsessions of a politically powerful minority? For that matter, can or should women of any background, socioeconomic standing or living situation be required to remain pregnant to accommodate the warped paradigms of the evangelical-fascists? The answer, for those shouting Hosannas for Alito’s draft ruling, is unequivocally yes.
When the draft decision was leaked to the public, it should have come to no surprise to anyone with half a grain of sense. Despite what Bret Kavanaugh told Senator Susan Collins during his confirmation hearing, there was no reason to imagine he would be anything other than a puppet for Donald Trump, himself a puppet for the reactionary forces aligned against the few remaining vestiges of secular and progressive civil society in the United States. Even if there was any doubt in people’s minds after Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, the nomination of evangelical darling Amy Coney Barrett to the late Justice Ginsberg’s seat should have made clear the GOP’s ambition. Yet, the phalanx of Republican senators stood firm and once again demonstrated that the interests of the party took priority over any attempt to preserve separation between church and state. Senator Collins’s supposed shock and dismay notwithstanding, the end game was clear to anyone with eyes.
So… what now? Technically, Roe v. Wade remains legal precedent, but there is no reason to imagine the reality of Justice Alito’s opinion will magically change between now and the official ruling later this year. In spite of this, states are already moving towards the full and complete prohibition of abortion access. According to human rights attorney and progressive activist Qasim Rashid, fringe lawmakers in Louisiana are taking the news of Roe‘s impending demise as an opportunity to offer legislation enshrining in law the evangelical-fascists’ greatest dream: the bestowing of personhood upon a fertilized human ovum (see HB813).
We have indeed toppled over the precipice and it will take leadership far beyond any so-far demonstrated by senior Democrats in Congress to grasp the safety rope. First: the conversation needs to shift from simply being about ‘choice’ to one about how the very secular foundations of the country are being threatened. Second: Democrats need to realize that they are not going to be able to compete against the well-tuned propaganda machine developed by the GOP and, as such, storytelling is going to be more important than just sharing facts. Third: the political left needs to recognize that it’s one thing to say “We’re better than this” and another thing to be better than this. In other words, Democrats need to buckle down and do the work of lawmaking. Furthermore, they need to come to grips with the fact that huge flagship projects like the ‘Green New Deal’ and universal healthcare are just too big to tackle all at once. But that does not mean we cannot make meaningful, albeit more modest, changes to improve the country’s long-term trajectory. We are against a methodical and patient opponent that schemed for decades to bring down Roe v. Wade and we would do well to adopt some of that patience and incremental approach in changing the world for the better.