A protester holds a sign at an abortion rights rally at the Arizona state Capitol. (Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror)
There’s a reason the Declaration of Independence reads “all men are created equal” and not “all men and women are created equal.” Simply stated, the Founding Founders were all white guys who didn’t think women were their equals.
In fact, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution after that, basically regarded women as their property, at least as far as the law was concerned.
It wasn’t until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 that women would even win the right to vote.
And it wasn’t until the 1965 Supreme Court decision in Griswold v. Connecticut that state laws outlawing the use of contraceptives, like the birth control pill, were tossed out. That dramatically reduced the health risks of unintended pregnancies and established “family planning as a cultural norm” and what Planned Parenthood calls “unheard-of control over reproduction” for women in the U.S. and ultimately around the world.
And it wasn’t until 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that women won the constitutional right to abortion in the United States.
But Roe v. Wade was about a lot more than abortion. It was about women coming closer than ever to being able to exercise their full rights as citizens. With Roe v. Wade women could finally declare: “This is my body. I’m in charge of it, and my future.”
It took the Supreme Court almost 200 years to arrive at the conclusion that women had the right to decide what to do with their own bodies — though, ironically, it wasn’t until 1981 that President Ronald Reagan would appoint Sandra Day O’Connor of Arizona as the first woman Supreme Court justice. (O’Connor would later join a majority of justices in upholding Roe v. Wade.)
Now comes word that a majority of justices on today’s Supreme Court have voted to overturn Roe v. Wade as early as this summer, according to a report by Politico about a leaked draft of the court’s pending announcement in a Mississippi abortion case. Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed the draft is authentic.
Assuming the court sticks with its decision, and there’s no reason to think it won’t, as many as 26 Republican-controlled states across the nation could soon outlaw abortion again, leaving Democratically controlled states to serve as safe havens for women seeking the procedure.
Said another way, if Roe v. Wade is tossed out, an estimated 40% of women in the United States would be deprived of their full rights as citizens.
No other group of Americans has ever been summarily deprived of a constitutionally sanctioned right in the United States, but that is exactly what is about to happen to women.
The repeal of Roe v. Wade means that women, at least in Republican-run states across the nation, would be deemed inferior to men, less than men, less worthy of American citizenship, and all thanks to the conservative majority on today’s right-leaning Supreme Court made possible by the election of Donald J. Trump in 2016. It was Trump who appointed three of justices expected to overturn Roe v. Wade.
This unbridled assault on the rights of women is all part of what author Tanya Melich labeled “The Republican War on Women,” also the title of her 1996 book. According to the publisher’s website, the book is an insider’s take on how “Republicans [led by Ronald Reagan] used appeals to sexist and racist bigotry to win the presidency [in 1980]. The party adopted an electoral strategy that included getting votes by playing on the fear and uncertainty engendered by the civil rights and women’s political movements, and continued to use this strategy in the campaigns of 1984, 1988, and 1992.”
That strategy, of course, is still being implemented today.
If the Republican war on women is real, then the Supreme Court’s looming decision on Roe v. Wade is its own brand of war crime because women will die unnecessarily as a result of it.
Just as they did before Roe v. Wade, women, especially low-income women and women of color, will be forced to seek abortions through far more dangerous means than are available to them now. The grotesque reality of “back-alley abortions” will return and women seeking an abortion in states that decide to ban the practice again will be regarded as criminals.
But wars are made up of battles in which the fate of opposing “armies,” in this case our country’s two major political parties, can easily shift, especially if one side commits a fatal tactical error. The ruling on Roe v. Wade that’s about to be issued by today’s Republican majority on the Supreme Court is just that sort of error.
The problem with declaring war on American women is that they still have three powerful weapons they can use to defend themselves: The right to vote, the fact that they constitute a majority of our nation’s voters, and the support of a strong majority of the American people.
Make no mistake, women will fight this decision. Already, thousands across the country have marched in the past week to protest the Supreme Court’s looming announcement and tens of millions will be marching to the polls to make their voices heard in the fall midterm elections and the next presidential election cycle.
Not only will women fight, but they’ll win.
The great tragedy is that, even as millions of women are marching and voting, an untold number of women will be dying from botched abortions and medical complications due to unwanted pregnancies — and the blood of those victims will be on the hands of today’s Republican Party.
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