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A Constant State of Reckoning: What Recent Roe v. Wade Rulings Reveal about US

We knew it was coming. Two months ago, four years ago, five decades ago. People were conscious of the many plots, the blatant support, and the emotionally charged accusations that enabled the dissolution of Roe v. Wade. As the announcement found its way onto the television screens and social media timelines, there has been an outpour of shock, anger, celebration, and resentment from pro-choice and pro-life commentators. American cities saw civilians and organizers spill into the streets and demand accountability. 

Politicians everywhere, from the seats of Waco to the steps of Washington, have been condemned for their complacency or direct involvement in the overturning of Roe v. Wade. From Democrats’ reluctance to codify the legislation, to Republicans’ misuse of religious liberty to satisfy their Evangelical base, every American politician is responsible for Friday's headlines and the detrimental effects of living in a ‘post-Roe’ generation. 

To truly understand the anti-abortion movements, we have to analyze a contentious time in American history, desegregation. You might be reading this and wonder what does race have to do with abortion and to that, I implore you to read an article such as The Real Origins of The Religious Right. Randall Balmer, professor and historian based at Dartmouth College, outlines the path Republicans such as Jerry Falwell and Barry Goldwater took to galvanize enough Evangelicals to prevent Jimmy Carter, a Democrat president, from achieving a second term in 1979. 

 American evangelicals, who serve as the foundation of the contemporary pro-life movement were notably “indifferent” regarding abortion before 1979. Before Republicans plotted to make abortion a key issue in politics, abortion was considered a “Catholic” issue. Baptists were supportive of Roe v. Wade, given that it stood as legislative evidence of the separation between church and state. W. A. Criswell, a highly influential 20th-century fundamentalist, concluded that life began when the child became a person, separated from the mother. Scientists today hold a consensus that the viability of a fetus, or the likelihood of the fetus developing into a human being, occurs at around 24 to 28 weeks. Due to the creation of a unique genetic code during the union of the egg and the sperm, many pro-life proponents argue that life begins at conception, negating that the unique genetic code has a possibility of developing as a human being instead of acknowledging that said code is not a human being. So, with all of these available resources and conclusions, why are so many Americans vehemently pro-life?

Furthermore, the discrepancy between the various Christian denominations is only a small part of the larger discourse surrounding religious liberty. Jewish Americans in particular, voiced their dissent with the recent Supreme Court ruling because, under Jewish tradition, abortion is permitted if the mother’s life is at risk. A similar disposition is held amongst many Muslim communities as there is no explicit condemnation or protection of abortion, but support for abortion in the event of sexual assault, or if the mother’s life is at risk, or any time before four months. As a result, Jewish Floridians have filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming new abortion laws violate religious liberty, a prominent conservative talking point, and we can expect to see more lawsuits in other states by Americans who are not Christian. 

To further understand how Republican politicians claim landslide victories with abortion on the ballot, we must consider the political landscape of the United States in the late twentieth century. You will hear contemporary conservatives sing slogans such as “Republicans freed the slaves,” yet fail to recognize the shift in ideology both parties experienced in the 1960s. Following the Civil Rights movement, Fmr. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into Law, ostracizing Southern Democrats from the Democratic Party. As a result, the ‘Dixiecrats'' abandoned the Democratic Party in favor of the Republican Party. To satisfy right-wing demands and rebuild a formidable conservative platform, they had to shift towards another issue to rebuild their base. They never truly abandoned the racist rhetoric that previously defined their politics, however, strategists like Jerry Falwell knew that adopting new ideologies would salvage and revitalize a dominant conservative party. 

A decade before the 1979 election, the United States witnessed its first year of desegregation. The right to segregation was previously defended under the argument for states’ rights. While states’ rights, in theory, may not be as insidious as previously described, the history of states’ rights demonstrates that citizens cannot rely on state governments to defend their lives, liberties, and the happiness of their constituents. States’ rights have been used by politicians to uphold white supremacist institutions and practices. Several states have violated the human rights of adults and children, robbing them of their self-autonomy for the benefit of America’s privileged class. From four centuries of slavery to reprehensible Jim Crow laws, many states have relied on the 10th amendment to protect their “right” to discriminate against anyone within their state borders. 

Beyond race, states’ rights have also been used to pass anti-trans bills, with some states even going as far as to incriminate parents and doctors who provide gender-affirming medical care to their trans children. In particular, a trans teenager was forcefully removed from her home following an absence from school. Her truancy was triggered by transphobic legislation in Tennessee that forced students to use bathrooms that correlate with their gender assigned at birth. Once again, we are met with an example of a state potentially violating the equal protection clause and the Civil Rights Act. Under the guise of state rights and “equality in bathrooms”, state officials can dismiss scientific studies that help validate trans identities. 

Time and time again, we have been provided countless examples of conservative legislation revoking the rights of marginalized Americans. Whether it be women, black Americans, members of the queer community, or those that lie within the intersections, legislation made on behalf of states’ rights has been used to create barriers between the America that exists today and the equitable America that could exist. Roe v. Wade was overturned as a result of tactical fearmongering and inaction. Roe is not the beginning and will not be the end. Justice Alito claimed constituents should not be weary of a potential overturning of monumental cases such as Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence v Texas, and Obergefell v Hodges. On the contrary, fellow Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the opposite in his opinion, claiming that such legislation should be reconsidered

Similarly, the three Trump-appointed justices have all claimed to respect Roe v. Wade as the law of the land to varying degrees. The consensus between the three is respect for precedent and thus settled law. To quell the restriction of rights, we must come to a consensus and agree that there has been a calculated effort to revoke the rights of marginalized Americans. Moreover, many Americans must admit that they contributed to said restriction of rights. From “meaningless” yet offensive comments online to standing by while young Americans are radicalized by bad-faith actors, plenty of political conversations on controversial topics will not be resolved until we look within and engage with the world with transparency in mind.



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