Overturn Roe V Wade!
It may sound perverse for a pro-choice advocate, which I am, to suggest that overturning Roe v Wade would be the best outcome from the current round of anti-abortion cases being heard by the SCOTUS.
However, when it comes to existential issues like abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia et al, anyone who believes in the principle of liberal democracy should want decisions made based on the will of the majority of their fellow citizens. Not the will of an ‘almighty’, nor the adjudication of 9 Supreme Court Justices who are neither accountable to, nor representative of, the men, women and children on both sides of the issue whose lives they are literally 'messing with'.
I came to this belief after immersing myself in dozens of podcasts and commentary pieces that have been written in the last few weeks as a result of the recent challenges to abortion 'rights' being heard by the SCOTUS.
One of these was advocating for the 'Consistent Life Ethic' (CLE). A movement of passionate, sincere and well-intended activists who believe that "abortion, capital punishment, assisted suicide and euthanasia, unjust war, cruelty toward immigrants and refugees, and police brutality are all equally wrong because they stem from the same dehumanization: the belief that certain human beings are disposable and can be treated like objects or property instead of people. The unborn child, the incarcerated person, the chronically ill or disabled person, the pregnant sexual assault survivor, and the Haitian refugee all have equal and immeasurable human dignity."*
It's hard to disagree with this thesis. Getting distracted by the debate as to when human life begins, or a Constitutional right to privacy, really doesn't solve the intractable problem. That pro-life and pro-choice evangelism is not based on logic or reason, but profound impregnable beliefs.
However, the more I thought about CLE it became clear to me that such a universal thesis is very 'western-centric' and comes from a place of unique privilege.
If we walk in the shoes of the 3.5 billion women and 2 billion children who don’t live in the so called ‘western world’, the admonition of pro-life supporters seems quite self-serving.
Their shoes walk through a world where an adequate healthcare system let alone neonatal care is a distant dream. A world where education is rationed and rudimentary. A world where some mothers’ have so little hope of a viable economic future for their children that they permanently disable them at birth, so they have a good physical reason to beg for the rest of their lives as a ‘way of living’. A world where children scavenge among the rubbish dumps of Lagos or Mumbai to find something to eat or sell before they find a place to sleep in slums with no sanitation.
I could go on. I’m sure you get the picture. It is a world where our rhetoric seems idealistic at best and a potential life sentence of poverty and subsistence living at worst.
In an ideal world, and outside of the force field of religious belief, the pro-life position would be understandable, even defensible. Even with the deficiencies of parental leave, child support, inadequate education etc. you and I might live in something approaching an ideal world.
Alas, the vast majority of women on our planet who choose to have an abortion do not. That applies to the US as well, where according to the Guttmacher organization, 49% of the 862,320 women who chose abortions in 2017 live below the poverty line.
Which is why I hope Roe V Wade is overturned and the issue handed back to the States and their legislature. The Founding Fathers held a profound belief in the principle that democracy required elected representatives to be as close to voters as possible. Hence the 10th Amendment. 'We the people' should choose through a democratic process where elected politicians represent our interests and are held accountable for doing so. Not everyone will like it, yet this principle is central to a functioning democracy. If the minority can persuade enough fellow citizens to their way of thinking/believing, they can prevail. For now, pro-choice advocates can rest assured that, if polling data is correct and the matter is returned to the States, abortion within reasonable parameters will remain legal in States that represent well over half the US population.
On the other hand, we should also remember that The SCOTUS decision in Roe v Wade "regulated abortion". During the second trimester, the state could regulate (but not outlaw) abortions in the interests of the mother’s health. After the second trimester, States could regulate or outlaw abortions in the interest of the potential life except when necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.
Related to this it is worth noting that 65% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in 'all or most cases' during the second and third trimesters. (AP-NORC Poll November 2021).
To those who profoundly and understandably remain pro-life, by all means follow your own beliefs and advocate for them. However, for as long as we live in a liberal democracy where the people get to elect representatives to make laws rather than an unaccountable elite or an even more abstract divine being, I hope pro-life campaigners appreciate that those of us who don’t share their belief would rather the choice on such matters remained a personal decision protected by the ballot box.
* Sophie Trist https://www.readtangle.com/posts/consistent-life-ethic-sophie-trist/