Protests fueled by the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, aka the Mississippi abortion case, is a warm-up for more intense protests that will no doubt come if the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is announced in June.
Roe’s reversal is expected by almost all observers except the senses. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who say they believed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh’s claim that “Roe was established law” during their nomination hearings.
The two pro-choice Republican senators may soon have second thoughts after confirming the men to the Supreme Court.
For nearly half a century, Roe’s politics suffocated America. It looks like a bad dream. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, abortion politics won’t go away any time soon because pro-choice and pro-life participants and the structure of the American political system will keep the pot stirring.
The politics around Roe have prevented political action on other critical issues because pro and anti-Roe coalitions absorb so much time and attention.
The leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion, and the inflammatory ideas and expressions it contains, for example the “deep-rooted story”, shows the power of the Roe question to lead to the poisoning of the system American politics.
While I am no Supreme Court groupie, I generally advocate following institutional norms and rules for the greater good. The Supreme Court’s public approval fell to 40% last year from a frequent over 60% in favor since 2000.
Roe himself and the topic of abortion are polarizing issues partly because Americans honestly disagree, but also because we talk to each other and see different sides of abortion.
There are five facts I want all Americans to recite before starting conversations about abortion:
1. Abortions were performed in about half of the states prior to Roe v. Wade from 1973, and they were medically practiced in the early 1900s before the American Medical Association pushed to force what we now call “alternative medicine providers”.
2. Public opinion on abortion has been stable in national polls with about two-thirds of Americans supporting keeping Roe v. Wade. However, there is wide variation between states with 74% of respondents in Massachusetts supporting some form of legal abortion having the highest support rate, and West Virginia the lowest with 35% supporting abortion. Missouri and Texas tied for 40th place with 45% supporting abortion in most cases. This variation in state explains why Roe’s politics have been reminiscent of polarization for almost 50 years.
3. The number of abortions has declined both nationally and in Missouri. The Guttmacher Institute reports that 18% of pregnancies ended in abortion in 2017, with an estimated 862,320 abortions performed in 2017, down 7% from 926,190 in 2014. This decrease is likely due to restrictions on abortion, better sex education and more accessible birth control.
Missouri hasn’t had an abortion provider since 2019, when Planned Parenthood of St. Louis moved to Illinois. The Missouri Department of Health reports that 3,903 abortions were performed in 2017 in Missouri, up from 19,043 in 1980.
4. Overthrowing Roe will not end abortion; it will allow states to regulate abortion. Missouri is one of 13 states where a ban on all abortions would be automatically triggered if Roe’s were overturned in 16 states, including Illinois, California and New York, which have codified abortion as a protected right.
5. There are medical alternatives to dilation and curettage (D&C) abortion, and more are likely to become available. More than half of abortions last year were medically induced. Last December, the Food and Drug Administration approved distribution of mifepristone without a direct medical visit or prescription. At least 10 states have restricted medical abortions, and it’s likely that other states, including Missouri, would also ban them, requiring residents to travel to a state that allows abortions in order to receive abortion pills, even through a taking telemedicine.
The widespread protests sparked by news of the leaked opinion earlier this week will no doubt be repeated when the final decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health is announced. After a few days of protests, protesters are expected to turn their attention to a “post Roe, pro-women” agenda.
Much of the pro-choice rhetoric as reflected in protest signs and media interviews is about the empowerment of women. Ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment will help empower women. The deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment should be extended and Missouri should ratify it.
Preventing unwanted pregnancies is the best abortion policy. To this end, sex education and the availability of birth control should be expanded. Rape and incest laws must be aggressively enforced, including funding for analysis of the backlog of rape kits.
If Roe is overthrown, perhaps pro-life groups will become more pro-life by opposing the death penalty, regulating guns that kill, and supporting policies that reduce poverty and homelessness. shelter.
Some political pundits predict Roe’s overthrow will affect the 2022 midterm legislative and national elections. After nearly 50 years of abortion politics, I don’t expect much electoral impact from overturning Roe v. Wade given voter concerns about Trump’s political influence, inflation, Ukraine, COVID-19 and the economy.
The only way to advance abortion policy is for Americans to accept that some states allow abortion and others prohibit abortion. In the current era of nationalized news and politics, this is unlikely, so the politics of abortion will continue.
David Webber joined MU’s political science department in 1986 and wrote his first column for the Missourian in 1994. He can be reached at [email protected]
David Webber joined MU’s political science department in 1986 and wrote his first column for the Missourian in 1994.