The American Supreme Court has certainly managed to catch the attention of the nation. The leaking of a draft of a ruling has people wondering whatever happened to Court security. Drafts are expected to be kept close to the vest until a final decision is made, for obvious reasons. So the leak reflects rather badly on the Court’s housekeeping.
And then there’s the draft itself. Written by the very conservative Justice Alito it appears to be a majority decision that will overthrow a 50-year old precedent set by a previous Court ruling, the legendary Roe vs. Wade. Roe famously established abortion as a woman’s right throughout the nation.
If the draft should prove to be the Court’s final decision, abortion will be thrown back into the arms of the individual states to do with it as they see fit. About 60 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, but opinion varies greatly from state to state. Some states will allow abortions and even facilitate the process. Others will be restrictive, some severely so, some to the point of even obstructing women’s ability to get an abortion in another state. Over a dozen states already have bans ready to go into effect if Roe is indeed overturned.
There are those who argue that this is as it should be. Those states where a majority of citizens oppose abortion should have a right to ban it. Most of these states are in the south, a region not amenable to dictates from federal authority.
This makes sense from the majority rule version of democracy. But democracies don’t rely solely on majority rule. In a democracy, every citizen counts. This precludes the right of majorities to run roughshod over minorities. Indeed that’s why we have constitutions—to ensure everyone’s rights are protected.
That’s why it is so important to women who seek abortions and their supporters to have that recognized as a constitutional right, which is what Roe does. A majority does not, in their view, have the right to impose upon the privacy of their bodies.
The southern states have long had some difficulty recognizing the rights of minorities. It took a war to force them to give up the practice of slavery, the ultimate in depriving a minority of human rights. They then created a terror-backed system of segregation in order to persist in suppression of their least-favoured minority. Eventually Supreme Court decisions were necessary to pry them loose from their tyranny. Roe similarly forced them, and their handful of sympathetic midwestern allies, to recognize a woman’s right to an abortion.
Now, if Alito’s decision becomes the Court ruling, they will have their power to interfere with women’s autonomy returned. It won’t end the battle, of course. Either about abortion or about the politics of the Supreme Court. It will continue to be a major issue dividing an already severely divided nation.
As to my view on abortion, I prefer to mind my own business. I am one of those who would never have to endure nine months of pregnancy, child birth with its attendant pain and risk, and many months of nursing thereafter, so I prefer to leave the decision to those who do.