By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Ever since the almost certain deliberate leak of the memo laying out the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority’s reasoning for scrapping Roe vs. Wade, there has been non-stop speculation just what that means for women, politics and the country.
Three things are certain. One is that it will create a whole new era for women, especially poor women of color, in the country. A slew of states will quickly rush to partially or fully outlaw abortions. They will predictably be in the heartland and the South; states dominated by Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures.
Another slew of states on the other political end will further liberalize their abortion procedures. They are states such as California and New York, which are dominated by Democratic governors and Democratic-controlled legislatures. The sharp divisions between the red and blue states on abortion will further explode the political fissures in the country.
The second certainty is that scrapping Roe vs. Wade will have a wildly disproportionate effect on poor Black and Hispanic women. They will not have the means, resources or connections to jump on a plane and head for California or New York or other abortion-friendly states to take advantage of liberal abortion laws. The nightmare scenario is that once again they will either be forced to endure an unwanted pregnancy that they are ill equipped financially and emotionally to handle or they will have to go the medieval back alley, illegal, abortion route with the colossal health risks involved.
There is one more certainty with the upcoming court decision. That is that getting rid of Roe vs. Wade is the fulfillment of the long-held dream of the right. From the moment in 1973 the Supreme Court decided the landmark case, religious conservatives, indeed, virtually all conservatives swung into action. For years, they picketed, heckled and harassed women at countless family planning clinics throughout the country.
They badgered Republican presidents to issue executive orders barring the federal government from funding virtually any group or agency that even uttered the word abortion in its programs and services. They got states and courts to hack away at the term when life begins and bar abortions for women who are pregnant even one minute past that legalistic time frame. They got successive Republican conventions to put hardline anti-abortion pledges in convention platforms.
Despite all this, they were not able to get the Supreme Court to totally dump Roe vs. Wade. They just needed one or two more judges on the high court to finally say no to it.
President Donald Trump knew that, the Republican Party knew that and Democrats always feared that the day would come when the Supreme Court would have those votes. The ferocious battle over the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh was almost totally driven by the great fear that he would be that much needed fifth vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade. He shrewdly said all the right things about the issue during the fight. And even more coyly after his confirmation tersely said that Roe vs. Wade was “settled.”
However, in the world of legal parlance and decisions nothing is settled. The laws and decisions about those laws are always fluid and subject to change depending on changing times, conditions, circumstance and the political views and philosophies of the principal players.
The abortion fight is proof of that. It was passed decades ago. Yet it did not settle the issue that abortion is the entrenched law of the land.
Trump was still another example of how a law that seemed to be settled could change with the times and politics. At one time, Trump was an avowed backer of choice, and said as much. That brutally changed.
He desperately needed the enthusiastic backing of hardline conservatives and evangelicals to cement another White House win in 2020. He was no different in this than other Republican presidential candidates who needed the anti-abortionists vote.
That was the case with 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Neither sufficiently passed the abortion litmus test to the satisfaction of religious conservatives and their leaders. So, those voters stayed home in droves.
Trump didn’t exactly set their hearts on fire either. But the mere thought of rock-solid pro-choice Hillary Clinton sitting in the White House sent terror through their ranks. They held their noses and grudgingly voted for Trump.
Once in the White House he instantly became the one person who could ensure that conservatives finally got their wish on Roe vs. Wade. He nominated Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barret. That sounded the death knell for Roe.
Now with 2022 midterms looming, packs of votes from conservatives are needed again. The GOP knows that. The best way to ensure that they will show up in droves again is to give them a big victory by boasting that the conservative-dominated Supreme Court delivered on the long-standing conservative hope to scrap Roe vs. Wade. While much is made that this could energize Democrats in the midterms, the flip side is also true. The elimination of Roe could energize conservatives, too.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is “The Midterms: Why They Are So Important and So Ignored” (Middle Passage Press). He also is the host of the weekly Earl Ofari Hutchinson Show Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.