Quote of the Day

"We don't have to see a Roe v. Wade overturned in the Supreme Court to end it. … We want to. But if we chip away and chip away, we'll find out that Roe really has no impact. And that's what we are doing."—Rev. Pat Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, quoted in Dahlia Lithwick's piece "The Death of Roe v. Wade."

Me, during the last election, once of a zillion times making the same point:
Using Roe as a cudgel to batter feminists/womanists (FWs) into line is becoming increasingly futile because the Democrats have been weak on protecting choice—and, hence, women's autonomy—for years. Yes, Roe is still in place, but the GOP has successfully chipped away at abortion rights on the federal and state levels for two decades. The point is, certainly the Democrats will nominate and approve justices who will protect Roe, but if they aren't willing to protect it from being rendered an impotent and largely symbolic statute because it's been hollowed out by "partial-birth abortion bans" and "parental consent laws" and state legislatures that refuse to fund clinics offering abortions, what does it really matter if they protect Roe?

FWs who are paying attention to what's happened to practical choice in this country know that the Roe card is already functionally meaningless at this point in large swaths of the country—and that's about the national Democratic Party as a whole, not just about its nominee in this election. The Dems are falling down on the job of serving their FW constituents in general and women specifically.

And the argument about appointing pro-Roe justices is designed, in part, to mask that failure. Not all of the restrictions on abortion rights have been decided in the court; many (if not most) are proposed and passed in state legislatures—and only those challenged n court depend on judicial appointments. Federal, state, and local funding of clinics has nothing to do with whom Democrats appoint to the bench. Fights over zoning laws and gifted property to build new clinics may also find their way to court, but oftentimes never make it that far. Anyone who still thinks that every encroachment on reproductive rights is being decided in a courtroom has some catching up to do.

A lot of progressives treat legal abortion like an on-off switch, but it's not remotely that simple. Legal abortion is only worth as much as the number of women who have reasonable and affordable and unencumbered access to it. That number is dwindling; IIRC, as of the year 2000, less than a third of the incorporated counties in the US had abortion clinics. That's not just inconvenience—between travel expenses and time off work along, the cost of securing an abortion can become an undue burden.

Realistically, if you're a woman who already has to drive three hours and across state lines to get an abortion, how much is "we'll protect Roe" actually supposed to mean to you?

Those making the Roe argument seriously need to consider what it sounds like to one of those women when she's told how her right to choose is best supported by someone who treats Roe as a magical abortion access password.
Last summer, the New York Times ran a piece titled "Abortion Foes Advance Cause at State Level," which began: "At least 11 states have passed laws this year regulating or restricting abortion, giving opponents of abortion what partisans on both sides of the issue say is an unusually high number of victories. In four additional states, bills have passed at least one house of the legislature." This year, there have been 916 pieces of legislation related to reproductive health and rights introduced in 49 legislatures, more than 500 of which are anti-choice measures.

This is happening in the United States, a country where abortion is meant to be legal and women are meant to be equal citizens with bodily autonomy and agency over their medical care, while a Democratic president sits in the White House saying absolutely nothing about the unrelenting assault on choice.

A president who was elected on the votes of women who were promised he would "protect Roe," who now instead silently oversees its slow subversion by a thousand legislative cuts.

I continue to be surprised (ahem) at the cavernous void of outrage across the progressive blogosphere at the president's silence. One might imagine the male-authored blogs at which protecting Roe is such a huge issue during elections would be prominently featuring coverage of the president's failure to lead the charge against this assault on women's basic bodily autonomy. One would think they'd be angry at the president who made them look like fools, after they caterwauled endlessly about how he was going to be the Great Protector of Roe, but now cannot be moved even to issue a critical statement of those who would hollow it out to its empty husk.

It's almost like certain gentlemen ostensibly on the Left side of the aisle only care about Roe as a bargaining chip, and not as a fundamental right of women. Huh.

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