Here’s What the Reversal of Roe v. Wade Really Means

You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.

Whether it’s their close friends or the ideological company with which they cavort.

Or those whom they favorably quote.

Consider Justice Samuel Alito, who, in his recently leaked draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, made it clear whose authority he believes we should rely upon for assessing the legitimacy of abortion.

That authority?

Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century English Judge.

In his decision — in which he says the Court misinterpreted history when they legalized abortion in 1973 — Alito references Hale, who insisted that abortion was a “great crime.”

Even though Hale wasn’t an American judge whose meanderings might be seen as a matter of national importance, Alito insists his views are relevant.

Why? Because they speak to the common law tradition to which we should be largely bound and from which he believes Roe grievously deviated.

And he says this even though no state outlawed abortion for the first century of the nation’s existence, despite that common law history.

In other words, the founders didn’t give a damn about Judge Hale.

But according to Alito, Hale is the authority to whom we should look for guidance here.

This tells us a lot about Samuel Alito and the thinking of the anti-abortion right-wing.

Because Sir Matthew Hale wasn’t merely a jurist who viewed abortion as a horrible offense.

He was also one who imposed death sentences on women for witchcraft and devised the theory that a husband couldn’t be guilty of raping his wife because:

…the husband cannot be guilty of rape… upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given herself up to this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract

Lovely.

This is the individual to whom we should listen.

A man who murdered women under cover of law and justified their rape under the same.

He, and not our own notions of right and wrong, should guide us.

He, and not women themselves, should be the arbiter of how their pregnancies progress, or if they do.

This is what the right has always believed: that the thinking of long-dead men (especially white men and Christians) should take priority over modern notions of justice and equality.

Especially when those modern notions might have been influenced by those who would have been previously forced into silence.

This was never about “state’s rights” or even abortion, per se

Anyone who believes the fight to overturn Roe has been about abortion alone hasn’t been paying attention.

It was never that simple.

Nor was it about returning these matters to the states.

Oh sure, some conservatives would insist that was their only purpose.

They would say things like, “Nine judges in DC shouldn’t tell people in Alabama or Nebraska how to think about the sanctity of human life.”

In other words, states should be free to live by their own moral convictions on such matters.

If Mississippi wants to outlaw abortion, it should be allowed. If California wishes to keep it legal, so be it.

But they never meant any of that.

Now that Roe is to be overturned, those who fought to make that happen have revealed their true selves.

They now admit their desire to obtain a nationwide ban on abortion if Republicans reclaim control of both houses of Congress.

Which shouldn’t be surprising.

After all, if you believe abortion is murder and that embryonic and fetal life is morally equal to the woman carrying it, it stands to reason you wouldn’t be satisfied with banning abortion in 26 states.

Once one decides a woman has no right to bodily autonomy and that she can be forced to sacrifice that body to another being against her will, federalism becomes a trifle.

But not only that.

Far more than abortion is at risk.

By ruling that the legal basis for Roe was faulty — that an implicit right to privacy exists in the Constitution — the Court has thrown down the gauntlet against the last half-century of jurisprudence regarding sex and gender.

Privacy was the basis for the Griswold v. Connecticut decision, which struck down state laws against contraception.

If there is no right to privacy, there is no right to control one’s reproduction even before becoming pregnant.

Though no state would outlaw all forms of contraception, it is certainly conceivable that several might seek to ban birth control pills, which some believe (falsely) to be abortifacients.

Beyond matters of reproduction, Lawrence v. Texas, the decision striking down so-called sodomy laws — really, the outlawing of homosexuality — relied upon the principle of privacy now put in the wood chipper by the highest Court.

And since Alito’s opinion insists rights aren’t real if they haven’t stood the test of time over many generations, it seems almost certain that he and his reactionary colleagues would find overturning Lawrence and once again outlawing LGBTQ folks acceptable.

As well as marriage equality.

Although Obergefell v. Hodges rested upon more than implied privacy rights — it also turned on notions of equal protection — there is little doubt that Alito would apply his anti-Roe logic to that decision.

Indeed, he already did in his dissent to Obergefell: an opinion for which he didn’t have a majority then — but likely would now.

The real goal is domination and control — the restoration of traditional hierarchy

It is time to face the facts.

First, those who still say “there’s no real difference between Democrats and Republicans” are unworthy of being listened to about anything beyond restaurant Yelp reviews at this point.

If you’re one of those who thought it would be no big deal if Trump won, or if some Republican Senator in your state did — so you sat out the elections or voted for some third party candidate so you could feel pure — seriously, fuck you very much.

Second, know this: the war on Roe was never about abortion so much as restoring traditional hierarchy and authority.

Outlawing abortion and limiting, if not banning, certain types of birth control strips women of sexual autonomy and restores hegemonic sexual power to men.

Which is precisely the point.

They aren’t principally concerned about fetuses and embryos, let alone “babies.”

As Margaret Renkl noted in her recent New York Times piece, if they were, they would support policies that would bring down abortion rates dramatically by reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies.

They would want expanded access to birth control and more comprehensive sex education, which actually works, unlike the abstinence version.

But they have supported neither of these.

Why? Because their desire to limit abortion and save fetal life was always less important to them than restricting sexual activity outside of marriage or sex for pleasure without the possibility of procreation.

Additionally, as Renkl notes, if they’d been concerned with reducing abortions, they would have supported expanded social safety nets for families and children — affordable child care, paid family leave, and more comprehensive health care coverage — rather than seeking to slash these.

But in each case, they took the position that would make it more difficult for parents to raise children, increasing the likelihood that a pregnancy would end in abortion.

Because this was never about saving babies.

It was about controlling women and maintaining traditional hierarchy, which, in the economic sense, would be challenged by larger safety nets.

If that doesn’t convince you, there is one final proof that the right cares only about controlling women and nothing about “saving babies.”

Namely, the way conservatives address in vitro fertilization.

Jessica Valenti has pointed out that if fertilized eggs are “persons” in the womb, they must also be persons when waiting to be implanted in a woman who has stored them for later usage.

But if so, why do abortion opponents not seek to prohibit the discarding of such “persons,” which occurs all the time, usually after successful implantation and once a couple (or single woman) decides they don’t want more kids?

Why don’t pro-lifers seek to prosecute couples who discard their “extra babies” or the labs who do?

When Alabama State Senator Clyde Chambliss was asked this a few years ago, he gave the revealing answer, noting that “the egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”

Right, because abortion restrictions are not about saving human life, they are about restricting the rights and autonomy of women.

The right-wing is solely about domination and subordination.

It is all they have ever been about.

The Republican Party and its ideological leaders are the enemies of women’s liberty.

They must be defeated, finally and forever.

Not compromised with.

Not understood or brought into some broader bipartisan coalition.

Crushed.