Democrats must become as brave and just as abortion clinic escorts
We now live in a country where the government cannot force you to wear a mask on an airplane during a pandemic but can force you to carry a pregnancy to term against your will. This is a country where the government will not ban certain types of assault rifles but will ban certain types of medical care. We live in this country because five justices in the grip of fundamentalist Christian orthodoxy have taken control of the Supreme Court – and because the majority of Americans who reject that orthodoxy have too often ceded the moral ground to the monsters who claim have legitimate and enforceable rights. interest in women’s bodies.
Women’s rights organizations and advocates have been in the trenches, fighting this fundamentalist sect, at literal physical risk to their lives, for decades. They fought in the streets and fought in the courtroom, but their would-be allies in Congress, in the media, and in the boardroom rarely had their backs. Fundamentalist Republicans have spent the better part of 50 years acting as if they were on a holy crusade to stop baby murderers. Democrats, at least many of the elected officials, clung to Bill Clinton’s formulation that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare” like a dude trying to fight global warming with an umbrella. Should we wonder which side wins?
It’s understandable that advocates and allies have long adopted less strident language when it comes to abortion rights. The moral case of “choice,” for example, is nice and easy to make, and has the advantage of being the only sane way to run a free society: if you think abortion is murder, then please don’t have an abortion! But if “pro-choice” was a good argument when trying to persuade people, it is insufficient as a combat posture. I’m done ceding moral space to Christian fundamentalists. Forced birth – literally commandeering a person’s uterus and forcing them to incubate cells against their will – is evil and barbaric and cannot be imposed by a legitimate government.
To reclaim the basic human rights the Supreme Court is about to take away, the fundamentalist agenda will have to be fought – and fought vehemently – through politics, the courts, and moral suasion. Centrist Democrats don’t want you to know this, but opposing this program politically is, by far, the easiest of the three.
For starters, President Joe Biden could make abortion services available at federal facilities. Physicians could then rent the space from the US government out of pocket; it would protect them from draconian state laws as well as the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion services (and even if it doesn’t bypass the Hyde Amendment, it doesn’t matter, because Democrats could simply repeal the amendment if they wanted to). Biden is already expected to take those steps in Texas, where abortions have been functionally unobtainable since September.
The Senate, if it ever bothered to help, could pass a law that protects the right to abortion. He could enact safe passage legislation, which would require states that deny reproductive services to allow pregnant women to travel to other states where such services are available, and then allocate federal funds to pay for that transportation, this accommodation and these holidays. .
The most direct approach would be for Democrats to restore through legislation what the Supreme Court has destroyed by judicial decision. Pass legislation that enshrines major holdings in Roe vs. Wade…and end the filibuster to get it through the Senate if that’s what it takes. But, of course, the Democrats, two in particular, won’t, which brings us back to fighting the right-wing’s theocratic agenda in court.
The simplest thing would be to enlarge the courts with judges and justices who believe the 14th Amendment is a rule, not a suggestion, and will uphold the notions of equal protection and due process. In some ways, Samuel Alito’s draft opinion is a giveaway, legally, because he was so bad at his job. Alito didn’t really engage in the convoluted and often mind-numbing analysis that judges normally do when overturning established precedent. He just walked out and said that deer was “patently wrong” and that women had no basic rights because the slavers and misogynists who wrote the Constitution didn’t think they should.
To fight Alito’s opinion, you don’t need fancy legal footwork. You just need: “This court was grossly wrong when it found Roe to be grossly wrong. While women’s rights are not deeply rooted in this country’s misogynistic foundation, we find that the failure of sexists and long-dead slaveholders to recognize the basic humanity of others is their problem, not ours. Give me 20 judges who agree with that, and I’ve solved the problem of Alito’s opinion.
But I fear that Democrats won’t take all of these ambitious yet obvious steps unless they learn to fight the moral battles first. I think of the many courageous people, mostly women, who serve as escorts for those simply trying to get into abortion clinics. Every day, they bravely walk pregnant women through a gauntlet of vitriol so they can access medical services, while the enemies – who scream, scream and threaten – somehow think they have high morals. But we know that it is the abortion advocates who have always been on the side of truth and righteousness. They are the ones who most claim moral clarity.
Now that Christian fundamentalists have claimed control over wombs that don’t belong to them, maybe it’s time for Democrats to take inspiration from the brave clinic escorts instead of the people who think zygotes have more rights than rape victims. Maybe it’s time to stop trying to compromise with them and start trying to fight them.