I can pretty much guarantee you a few things are going to happen in the near to not-too-distant future regarding abortion rights in the United States. I don’t believe a national ban will happen unless the Supreme Court decides to force it. Instead, the insanity of our abortion policy in this country and the Christian extremism driving the legislatures of many states will lead to even more ludicrous and oppressive laws.
For example, laws will be passed that will punish anyone who helps someone living in an anti-abortion state to travel to another state to receive an abortion. Those laws will evolve to allow an anti-abortion state to seek the extradition of providers who perform abortions on women from that state. It will get crazy: when a doctor in New Mexico performs an abortion on a woman from Texas and someone alerts Texas authorities, that New Mexico doctor will have a warrant for their arrest, which New Mexico will ignore, causing greater tension between the states. And if the doctor happens to travel to Texas, they are open to being locked up and charged. By the way, this isn’t a fantasy. It’s already in bills being filed in Texas and other states.
I think it will go much further. I think we’re going to get to the point where, if someone informs on them, pregnant women will be blocked from leaving the state to get an abortion, perhaps even imprisoning them. Once fetal personhood laws pass, I don’t see how this isn’t an immediate consequence.
We’re already seeing the madness over abortion pills. Texas, ground zero for cruel and brutal treatment of pregnant people who don’t want to be pregnant, is looking to get internet providers to block access to websites that sell the medication. The state is already a tangle of laws on abortion pills, with many women turning to Mexico or elsewhere to get them. Nationally, use of medication to end pregnancies has risen to over half of all abortions. Meanwhile, there’s a case out of Texas (of course) which is before a Trump-appointed judge (of course) and could lead to a national injunction on the distribution of the pills. The case is nonsense (of course), but it challenges the FDA’s approval of Mifepristone, which is taken with another medication, Misoprostol, to end a pregnancy.
It’s really not hard to game out the post-Roe v. Wade landscape. Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June 2022 tossed Roe onto history’s bloody ashcan, it’s already become dystopian in many states, with doctors refusing to perform abortions on women who meet the standard for exceptions, like rape or severe fetal abnormalities, with women being forced to keep pregnancies until their health becomes so dire that they almost die, with doctors and medical professionals being scared of losing their jobs or being sued by some bounty hunter or, indeed, being prosecuted. In the last seven months, every state that could has done everything from tighten abortion restrictions to banning it outright, with virtually no exceptions. In the sane states, like New York or California or Michigan (yes, Michigan), the legislatures and voters are expanding rights and making themselves sanctuary states for those seeking abortions from the crazy states. Indeed, even when voters say they don’t want abortion outlawed, like in Kansas, woman-hating legislators are coming up with things like allowing localities to ban it and other ways of undoing the voice of the people. The will of the voter doesn’t matter here; what makes you think it will be respected when they vote out those legislators who want to overturn their vote?
This should be the 50th anniversary of a Supreme Court decision that stated, quite clearly, that the people of the United States should be treated equally, that the religious views of a vocal group of Christian extremists shouldn’t take precedence over the bodily autonomy of half the population. With Roe gone, we have taken another step towards the dissolution of the idea of a United States. It’s unsustainable that half the states allow a woman control over her reproduction choices and half the states do not. It’s impossible to reconcile that, and it’s inevitable that conflicts between the states will arise over this. For now, those conflicts will be legal ones.
But look at the extremism of the anti-choice Christian right. If the right to an abortion gets codified at the national level, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that, say, Mississippi will say it won’t abide by the law. And then what? Troops keeping clinics open like back in the days of desegregation and schools? More states following? Or what if the out-of-control right-wing Supreme Court takes the next step and outlaws abortion completely? Do you really think California is going to listen? In my most pessimistic hours, I believe that this is ultimately the goal of the Christian nationalists: if not an outright one, then a de facto dissolution of the United States, where the states declare a 10th Amendment right or something to disobey the Supreme Court or Congress. I’m not going full Handmaid’s Tale, but I’m sure saying that a whole lot of the country wouldn’t mind it.
Does that sound crazy? So does a modern country allowing for the outlawing of abortion in half of its territory. So do states treating women like property in the 21st century, with the savagery and hatefulness of one side being taken out on women’s bodies. One school of thought said that the end of Roe was a dog catching a car it was chasing. What’s it going to do with it now? Well, the dogs of the Christian right now want to chew up the roads the cars are on.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on January 21, 2023 on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa. It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.
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