“I have independence?,” Jackie ruefully asked. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing this weekend — I’ll have to ask a man.”
Or the Supreme Court, maybe? What an irony that half of the nation has just lost its independence in time to celebrate Independence Day. The Supreme Court’s Catholic, conservative white male majority has told half of us — the half with uteruses — that we’re second-class citizens. We’ve lost our independence, sovereignty over our own persons.
Really, it’s far worse than just losing independence. As the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Linda Greenhouse asserted even before the fateful decision last week overturning Roe v. Wade, “The 13th Amendment, adopted after the Civil War, prohibits both slavery and ‘involuntary servitude.’ What is forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term if not involuntary servitude?”
Dan and I were privileged to talk with Linda Greenhouse yesterday on Freethought Radio, discussing her column on female servitude as well as last Sunday’s eloquent “Requiem for the Court.” Linda, who covered the Supremes for 30 years for the New York Times, and is one of the nation’s experts on the court, pointed out that the majority decision scarcely used the word “women,” much less showed any concern or curiosity about how the decision would upend lives.
Justice Samuel Alito, in his ugly opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson, even arrogantly dismissed such concerns, writing that “we cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public’s reaction to our work.” (He knows he’s unpopular!)
The rights of women and other persons who can get pregnant are “extraneous”? We wouldn’t want you to spare any thought for or lose any sleep over the life-altering and endangering, crisis-inducing effects of your opinion, Mr. Alito.
The decision is contemptuous from beginning to end. With a straight face, Alito writes that the solution is to turn the decision on abortion back to each state legislature, because “For the first 185 years after the adoption of the Constitution, each state was permitted to address this issue in accordance with the views of its citizens.” Women couldn’t even vote for the first 144 years! Even today, two-thirds of state legislators remain male, voting on women’s lives.
Alito congratulates himself that now the high court will be spared the constant conflicts that Roe v. Wade and the companion Casey v. Planned Parenthood supposedly burdened these poor justices with—if we can use that word poor in relation to the justices, given their salaries of $265,600-plus. Protecting constitutional rights is supposed to be one of the Supreme Court’s purposes, Justice Alito.
We all know the result of overturning Roe will be simply to move the litigation to the state level, creating infinitely more lawsuits and legal confusion, not to mention creating ever more conflict and unending political and legislative fights. The United States will never be free of such conflict now, nor will abortion rights ever be secure. Yet Alito complains, “The Court short-circuited the democratic process by closing it to the large number of Americans who dissented in any respect from Roe.” Translation: Antiabortionists (who are in the minority) want to butt their noses into other peoples’ lives—not to mention personal parts—to stop them from having abortions, and Roe thwarted that. Not any more.
Speaking of democracy, it isn’t an automatic good. A democracy without a bill of rights is mob rule. But make that minority rule in our Divided States of America. As has been amply noted, five of the six judges who voted to repeal Roe were appointed by a president who lost the popular vote.
When and whether to be pregnant or have a child isn’t something that should ever be subject to a vote. No, in our society you don’t get to decide how many children your neighbor has or doesn’t have. Human rights do not and should not depend on the happenstance of your ZIP Code. Some rights are, as our Founders put it, unalienable.
What we really need independence from is the Trump-packed Supreme Court. No right will be safe under a court that, as the three dissenting justices put it, overruled Roe and Casey “for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them. The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law.” Court reform is imperative.
My wish for each of you reading this is that you will enjoy a break over what is, for many of us, a three-day weekend. Get outside, let nature soothe, relax and rejuvenate. Because when we get back next week, it will be time to roll up our collective sleeves and get to work—to defend the besieged separation between religion and government and all the corollary rights it protects.
To quote the words of Rep. Jamie Raskin’s dad, “When everything looks hopeless, you’re the hope.”