How the war on Roe was won

25 June 2022

4:00 PM

25 June 2022

4:00 PM

When did it become certain that American women’s abortion rights would fall? The Supreme Court’s ruling that ‘Roe was egregiously wrong from the start’ was leaked almost two months ago, so the formal release of the judgment yesterday is bitter but hardly a surprise.

Certainly, Donald Trump can take a lot of the credit. Somehow, an administration that gave every impression of being a blazing car crash from which hapless apparatchiks were ejected at speed managed to appoint three — three! — Supreme Court judges, every one of them a copper-bottomed social conservative.

But he could never have achieved that without the unlikely help of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that liberal icon of jurisprudence, who missed the chance to retire under Obama and just went on working till her last breath at 87, in 2020.

While Ginsburg was winning go-girl cheers for her workouts, the other side could comfortably wait for her to die. Her reward for her service was to be replaced with Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a staunch pro-lifer who was the final piece in dooming of Roe (and who is likely to support the reversal of gay rights too).

Then again, Ginsburg could have enjoyed her final victory laps as a feminist hero at no cost to the feminist cause as a whole, if only Barack Obama had seen through one of his campaign promises and signed the Freedom of Choice bill.

This legislation, which would have codified Roe v. Wade, would be ‘the first thing I’d do as president’, he said in 2007. Once he became president, though, it was relegated to ‘not my highest legislative priority’. It turns out it’s quite hard for the arc of justice to bend towards history if the guy in charge can’t be bothered to apply any force to the issue.

Go back further. Go back to the eighteenth century, if you’re Justice Samuel Alito, author of the majority opinion. ‘It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,’ he wrote. And what indeed could be more authoritative on a matter of medicine and gender than a document written in 1787, predating both germ theory and women’s right to own property.

Thirteen states already have ‘trigger laws’ in place ready for the end of Roe, meaning abortion will be banned within a month. Abortion opponents were ready for this. Abortion opponents have been ready for a very long time.

Why, then, have America’s pro-choicers been so utterly abject in the face of it? I mean Obama, and I mean Ginsburg, and I also mean organisations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, which have spent the last few years doing more to campaign against the word ‘woman’ than they have to campaign for women’s rights.

Chase Strangio of the ACLU actually had the gall to tweet: ‘Glad we spent so much time and energy discussing the use of the term “pregnant person” — definitely served us well.’ Which, given that no one was arguing about the term ‘pregnant person’ till he and his cohort decided to impose it, feels a bit rich.

While the right has diligently chipped away at women’s rights, the left’s response has been to offer nothing but blackmail. Stick with us, because the other guys are even worse. Sure, it feels undignified to call yourself a ‘menstruator’ or a ‘uterus bearer’, but that’s the cost of admission to the big liberal tent. If you don’t want to be reduced to your reproductive system, better start by reducing yourself to your reproductive system.

What a joke. The right won their war on Roe because they took abortion seriously. The left lost because they treated it as a triviality, a done deal, something they could threaten women with (imagine if you lost this!) but never had to actively defend.

Feminism ascended to the status of fashion accessory — a background for Beyonce, a Teen Voguevertical — without having accomplished all that much in the US. It’s worth remembering that American women have no national statutory maternity leave. (Still, nearly half of Democrat men under 50 and quarter of women believe that ‘feminism has done more harm than good’).

You might think a pro-life policy would start with employment protection for the women who are supposed to raise these sacred babies, but alas no. There is a terminal inability on the right to imagine that the woman who carries an unwanted baby to term is the same woman who won’t be able to pay her rent four weeks later because she can’t go to work.

But this is no different from the left’s insistence that there is no ‘woman’ here at all, merely a colocation of unrelated organs for birthing, feeding, bleeding. Obama managed not to mention the word ‘woman’ in his tweet about the Supreme Court ruling. Nor did the Democrat’s favourite feminist firecracker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. America is, simply, a very bad place to be female, and with the end of Roe it becomes considerably worse.

Some women will die of unsafe procedures. Many will take their chances with black-market telemedicine — and become criminals if they end up in hospital. Those who miscarry will be objects of suspicion. Others will have babies they cannot care for. Some of those babies will die, too. But the victims of Roe’s fall will be, most of all, women. America’s women will have to relearn how to name themselves before they can save themselves.

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