by Eric Oppen
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
It looks like yet another of my predictions has come true. As I thought they would, the Supreme Court has overturned Roe vs. Wade, returning the decision on whether, and under which circumstances, abortion should be legal to the several states’ legislatures. That is, in my opinion, where it should have rested from the beginning.
While I am in favor of legalized abortion, I did not and do not think that the courts have any business overriding the will of the voters as expressed through their elected representatives, save only in cases where the Constitution was violated by the legislation passed. I can find nothing in the Constitution expressly allowing abortion, nor forbidding it. At the time Roe vs. Wade was decided, many states had laws on their books forbidding abortion.
For better or worse, many people, women as well as men, equate abortion to infanticide. Others, particularly at first, disliked having their state laws overturned by unelected judges. As time went on, the ones who objected to judicial overreach more or less reconciled themselves to the situation, but the ones who thought abortion was murder did not go away. The evangelical resurgence in the late 1970s and early-to-middle 1980s infused new life and strength into the anti-abortion movement.
Ever since Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court has been captive to that decision. Presidents from both parties have selected candidates for the Court based on how their known or suspected views of abortion concur with that president’s party line. Candidates thought to be anti-abortion have undergone severe grilling and screaming protests from pro-abortion fanatics, and sometimes have been prevented from ascending to the Court.
With Roe vs. Wade gone, the pro-choice people are going to have to get on top of their game. For many years, they’ve been able to shelter behind the Supreme Court, not needing to keep their political skills sharp and toned. Meanwhile, the other side has not been idle by any means. They’ve come up with many angles of attack, and tried law after law to get around the Supreme Court. No matter how often they’ve been rebuffed, they haven’t given up. Those people could give the Terminator a few lessons in sheer bloody-minded persistence.
If I were advising the pro-choice people, there are a few pro tips I’d give them.
First: Tone down the shrillness and quit exaggerating! I’m far, far from the only person who remembers what it was like before the Sacred, Holy Decision was handed down, and it was nothing at all like the Handmaid’s Tale! Or Taliban Afghanistan, or the ayatollahs’ Iran, for that matter. Exaggerating the real problems inherent in a ban on abortions does not help your case.
While I’m on the subject: Ditch the damn Handmaid’s Tale costumes! Your obsession with that stupid, stupid book and the equally-stupid movie and TV series derived from it does not make people take you more seriously. There’s a time and a place for cosplay, and that time and place is at SF cons and other such costume-friendly venues. One of these days I plan to write an essay detailing all the ways in which that book should have stayed forever unpublished. The fact that it did, and apparently has never been out of print, while far worthier works by better authors are snubbed by publishers and languish in their authors’ hard drives and dresser drawers is proof of the injustice of life.
Second: Get a grip! In a good few states, abortion’s a protected right in the state constitutions, so your work’s half-done already. Just because the Supremes handed this decision back to the several states does not mean that it’ll immediately be outlawed from sea to shining sea. This is a political setback, not the end of the universe. In 1964, ignorami thought conservatism was utterly finished after Barry Goldwater’s inevitable rout at the polls. And we all know what happened later, don’t we? That wasn’t the end. It was a beginning. Treat this the same way.
One bright spot is that a lot of the states with sweeping anti-abortion laws on the books passed those laws more as an attempt to appease the anti-abortion fanatics, counting on Roe vs. Wade to make them forever moot. Now that Roe vs. Wade is gone, they’re going to have to face a lot of people (yes, even in the reddest red states) that won’t be happy about this situation at all.
Third: Quit stereotyping your oppnents! You spend a lot of time fighting an enemy that exists far more in your own stupid heads than in reality—and try engaging with the other side. I’ve had a lot to do with those people, and honestly, by and large, they are not the foaming religious fanatics you seem to think they are. They don’t think The Handmaid’s Tale is a blueprint for an ideal society any more than anybody else would. As a matter of fact, I’ve known anti-abortion atheists. How do you explain those?
For that matter, how do you explain that there are a lot of women who are as passionately opposed to abortion as you are passionately in favor of it? Pro-choice women love taunting anti-abortion men with “Keep your laws off my body!” and “If you don’t have a uterus, you don’t have a right to an opinion!” but these women are as female as they are. They were the backbone of the anti-abortion movement, and are, if anything, as fanatical as the Handmaid’s Tale cosplayers.
I think that if both sides could manage to get their shrieking all-or-nothing fanatics under control, we could hammer out a compromise that would make most people happy, or at least, reasonably content. If you actually read Roe vs. Wade, it does not confer a blanket blessing on all abortions, right up to the moment of birth.
Up till about 2016, things were at a state of equilibrium. A lot of politicians would posture for the voters by ranting and raving against abortion, promising to pass sweeping abortion bans to save “the babies,” all the while knowing that they’d never really have to answer to their pro-choice constituents for those laws in any significant way. Roe vs. Wade had been settled precedent for quite some time, and showed no signs of being overturned soon, if at all.
Then, in a surprise upset victory, Donald Trump won the presidency, shocking, stunning, and disappointing the feminists who’d set their hearts on Hillary, First of her Name, becoming our first female president. In their outrage and fury, they cast about for ways to show their displeasure and punish those flyover-country hicks who dare to claim citizenship, to vote, and to think they, and not the bicoastal elite, should be allowed to select a president. And they lit on the abortion laws.
Laws about abortion in many deep-blue states were already very lenient, but after 2016, there was a spate of laws extending the legality of the procedure literally almost up to the moment of birth, if not that moment itself. This infuriated the anti-abortion forces, who responded by passing laws of their own criminalizing abortion far more sweepingly than had been the case before the Sacred, Holy Decision. In some cases, these laws even criminalized leaving the states where they were passed to get abortions in less-extreme states. (How this was to be enforced, I do not know.)
The inevitable court challenges began. Smug and secure, the pro-abortion side put their faith in the Supreme Court, knowing of its reluctance to overturn earlier verdicts by its predecessors. Then they noticed that as president, Donald Trump was actually trying to keep his promises! (And here I’d always thought that the sight of a politician actually doing what he’d promised to do was one of the signs of the iminent end of the world!) He was appointing judges, just like he had some right to—like he was the President of the United States or something like that! How dare he?
Then a vacancy appeared on the Supreme Court. The pro-abortion forces were already uneasily aware that the Supreme Court was poised on a knife’s edge. Every GOP president had taken advantage of every chance they got to put Justices on the court that were, or were thought to be, reliably anti-abortion. Those Presidents had not, themselves, necessarily been anti-abortion themselves, but they answered to a party that had been dominated by that viewpoint ever since Ronald Reagan’s ill-thought-out open welcome to the evangelicals disappointed in Jimmy Carter. (P.J. O’Rourke commented at the time: “Even Nixon had some discretion about which clergymen he’d let get close to him in public.”)
When the Orange Antichrist/Literally-Hitler made his nomination, the eruption of outrage echoed off the vault of Heaven. “Protesters,” many of them in idiotic Handmaid’s Tale costumes, stormed the Capitol (with impunity, need I add?) and did their utmost to disrupt the hearings. To add insult to injury, they dug up some woman with a vague tale of having been groped by the candidate at a teenage party decades before.
The incident, if it had even happened (the accuser could find no corrobration, and could not even remember the date and place of the “attack,” which hurt her credibility enormously) did not remotely rise to the level of a rape. But to hear the pro-abortion side, the candidate had viciously ravaged this innocent young ewe lamb. However, it wasn’t enough to keep the candidate off the Supreme Court.
Fear for their precious Roe vs. Wade was probably the spur that goaded the Democrats to cheat their way to victory in 2020, but it was too late. One of the state-level abortion bans had been, as expected, stopped by the courts, and its supporters had appealed, eventually reaching the Supreme Court. And now here we are today.
This endless quarreling and feuding has deeply scarred American society, and I heartily wish that the Supremes had decided differently in 1973. And I say that as someone who is, personally, of the opinion that abortion is no real business of the government.
In my opinion, the pro-choice people should have used the fifty years’ grace Roe vs. Wade gave them to get constitutional amendments passed. If not on the federal level, then on the state level. Those are much more secure, and at the Federal level, they cannot be overturned by the Supreme Court. I do think that if they kept their demands reasonable they could garner a lot of unexpected support. I used to be active with the GOP in my area, and I noticed that a lot of them, men and women alike, were privately not nearly as foaming-at-the-mouth anti-abortion as the stereotypes would suggest. But the other side would prefer to engage a phantom that exists mostly in their own minds than actually deal with reality as it exists.
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