The Slow Death of Roe v Wade
Published in BlackCommentator.com on July 7, 2022
It wasn’t as if we didn’t know it was coming. The rabid rightwing anti-choice movement has been hacking away at the amendment since its passage. The draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked back in May. Still, it was a powerful slap across the face of justice-loving people who support reproductive freedom. In a 5-4 decision, the conservative court smacked down a constitutional right which had been in place for nearly 50 years.
The despicable ruling pushed the power to ban abortions to the states. Twenty-six states were already eagerly waiting to impose the ban. Half of those – like my home state of Missouri – had already passed so-called trigger laws that would automatically make abortion a crime with the overturn of Roe.
The anti-choice fanatics have been creative and crafty in their strategy and tactics to eliminate Roe. Probably the first shot across the bow was the Hyde Amendment passed in 1976. It made it illegal to use federal funds for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Easily passed through the Congress, Hyde was a conscious dig towards poor women, especially women of color. Many have argued that the Hyde Amendment is not the formidable piece of legislation that it’s propped up to be, that it’s a budgetary amendment that could be repealed or overwritten by a presidential executive order.
Once the Republicans saw how the Democrats buckled, they stepped up their game. Their movement was unafraid to go after Roe with gusto. They constantly redefined conception and coined unscientific phrases like “fetal personhood.” I finally issued my own sarcastic definition: conception begins at the twinkle of your daddy’s eye.
The extremists who oppose abortion took the fight to a new depths with a chilling effect. When the National Abortion Federation released its 2020 stats on violence against abortion providers, there was a marked increase in vandalism, bombings, assault and battery, stalking and a host of other illegal and unethical actions. A federal court ruled in favor of a website that published a hit list of doctors who performed abortions.
It’s no surprise that with these kinds of deadly tactics, there’d be a decrease in abortions. But the anti’s can’t take all of the credit for this. Education, injections like Depo-Provera, along with access to the morning after and abortion pills, have supported women in their reproductive decisions. Currently medical abortions account for more than half of all abortions in the U.S.
Coming out of the woodwork now are sectors of corporate America responding to the court’s regressive and oppressive action. Women seeking abortions will now have to travel to the few states where abortions are still legal. Some companies like Apple, Amazon and Tesla announced expansion of their abortion rights health coverage to include travel when the intent of SCOTUS was first leaked. Several others followed their lead – JPMorgan Chase, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Facebook, Yelp, Disney, Mastercard, Netflix, Microsoft, CVS and more. Lyft and Uber upped the ante and also vowed to cover legal costs should their drivers incur charges for transporting women to abortion clinics.
All this sounds well and good. We must hold these bandwagon-jumping companies accountable to make sure they actually put their money where their mouths are. Too many of these same corporations made similar pledges after the George Floyd murder by police, We still waiting for them to make good on their commitments to address racism inside and outside the company.
The fight for reproductive justice is far from over. Pro-choice folks need to also be engaging in a number of tactics like teaching more lay people how to give safe abortions. Like paying serious attention to appointments and elections of judges. Like making sure getting reproductive pills through the mail doesn’t become a felony. Like stopping Uncle Clarence Thomas from making good on his proposal to go after other laws like same-sex marriage.
There’s enough outrage out there to cut with a butter knife. The struggle for safe and accessible abortions needs to move to the state level where we can duke it out with lawmakers closer to home. All the big talk and the dollars have to be translated into a serious strategy for victory. The SCOTUS ruling is a temporary setback. The fight for reproductive justice must look very different going forward.