BY LYDIA HOWELL
Picture a woman or a girl under 18 that you know – a partner, sister, daughter, niece, friend. Then, imagine grainy video of an egg being pierced by a sperm – the moment of fertilization. That fertilized egg is being elevated above already-born female and gender non-conforming people – who are disappeared by politicians and judges practicing medicine, ignorant of basic facts about reproduction.
Self-described pro-life Republicans are indifferent to the fact that the U.S. has the highest maternal and infant mortality rates among Western nations. Their professed family values are a sham revealed by their consistent votes against what families and children need. Recently a majority of Republicans voted against addressing the baby formula shortage created by corporate monopolies.
The leaked draft of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade makes reproductive decisions a matter of “states’ rights.” Half of states are poised to ban abortion as soon as Roe falls. Republicans threaten a national ban if they regain control of Congress and the Senate.
Decades of the anti-choice campaign of fear tactics and outright lies distorted this debate. No state ever allowed abortion on demand up until moments before birth, but Alito repeats that false claim.
Anti-choice billboards show cute infants. Protesters scream “save the babies!” Yet, 92% of abortions occur in the first three months of pregnancy when a fetus is 2 ½ inches long and weighs half an ounce, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The Guttmacher Institute, which researches sexual and reproductive health, reports that by age 45, 30% of women have had an abortion and 60% of women were already mothers when they ended a pregnancy. In Minnesota, 283,400 women live in “birth control deserts,” disproportionately impacting Black, Latino, Native, undocumented immigrant and low-income women by making the most reliable contraceptives unavailable. Birth control can also fail.
Life-threatening emergencies for the woman or fetal abnormalities incompatible with survival account for the 8% of abortions performed after 12 weeks.
Self-induced abortion and miscarriage can look identical. Louisiana and Oklahoma’s bans make abortion homicide. Investigating miscarriages as crimes will lead to massive civil rights abuses.
Alito’s opinion exposes the right-wing Federalist Society “originalist” interpretations of the Constitution now dominating the Supreme Court. It freezes law in the 1789 birth-year of our Constitution, when only 8% of white men could vote, women were defined as property of their husbands, and people of color were viewed as subhuman. Over and over, Alito cites “history and tradition” as reason enough to ban abortion. He goes back in time to long before our nation’s founding, citing a 17th-century British jurist, Sir Matthew Hale, an extreme misogynist even for his time, as well as the colonial period in 1602 and even as far back as the 13th century, which would have been during the time of Catholic church law.
Alito argues that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, so it can’t be a protected right, contradicting the Ninth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Every American should be chilled by Alito’s adamant, repeated assertions that our Constitution protects no right to privacy.
It’s an Orwellian irony that many people yelling the loudest about “state tyranny” and “government overreach” when it comes to COVID-19 public health protections, support using law violating bodily autonomy to control women’s reproductive decisions. Privacy was fundamental to reproductive rights, as well as legalizing contraceptives for married couples in 1965 and single people in 1973. Privacy rights ended the criminalization of LGBT people’s sexual lives and legalized same sex marriage.
Those court decisions recognized freedom and human dignity, meaning government can’t intrude into intimate areas of our lives.
Like Donald Trump’s right-wing Supreme Court nominees’ mantras “I respect precedent” and “Roe is settled law,” Alito saying “Only abortion will be affected by this decision” is a promise not worth the paper it’s written on.
When contraceptives were a crime, sterilization abuse was legal, targeting women of color and the poor. With the spreading of white supremacist Replacement Theory that sparked the Buffalo massacre, will forced sterilization return? The 1873 Comstock law declared birth control information and devices criminal “obscenities” for 90 years. Anti-abortion activists and politicians falsely claim the most effective contraceptives are “abortion-related,” vowing to outlaw them next.
How much of the last 70 years of expanding human rights will the originalist Supreme Court reverse?
Since 1995, Minnesota’s state constitution has protected reproductive rights. But people should remember Trump lost Minnesota by only 1.5 points. Democracy is on the ballot and so are our rights.
Resources: Minneapolis journalist Robin Marty’s “Handbook for a Post-Roe America” is crucial for activism and self-determination, including emergency contraceptives (Plan B or morning after pills) and medication abortion, safe and available online.
See also: UnRestrictMinnesota.org; ProChoiceResource.org; and Minnesota Religious Council of Reproductive Choice at www.mnrcrc.org.
Lydia Howell is a Minneapolis journalist.