50.50: Opinion

Overturning Roe v Wade is just the beginning. They won’t stop at abortion

The Republican Party is poised to impose a Christofascist theocracy upon all Americans – limiting the rights of women and LGBTIQ+ people

Chrissy Stroop
Chrissy Stroop
4 May 2022, 11.46am

Thousands protest in Seattle following news that the Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe v Wade, 3 May 2022

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James Anderson /Alamy Live News

A slight irony in the fact that this breach of privacy, of one of the US’s most secretive and unaccountable government institutions, occurred in conjunction with a decision that will de facto eliminate Americans’ federal right to privacy.

But there is nothing at all funny about the devastating impact that overturning Roe v Wade will have on women’s equality, on the rights of anyone who can get pregnant, and, in the future, most likely on anyone who needs access to birth control, or who wants to enter into a same-sex marriage, or who needs access to medical treatment for gender dysphoria. Even laws against ‘sodomy’, overturned in the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v Texas, could now be back on the table.

To be sure, the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion over the critically important Mississippi abortion ban case, Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health, states: “We emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right. Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” Its author, Justice Samuel Alito, also argues for the “uniqueness of abortion” with respect to the termination of “life or potential life”.

However, other points Alito emphasizes make clear that (the supposed uniqueness of abortion notwithstanding) his argument could be used to strike down other civil rights opposed by the extremist white Christians who comprise the core of the Republican Party.

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In rejecting Roe’s reasoning about abortion, Alito belabored the notion that any right considered to exist under the US constitution should have a deep grounding in American history, arguing that there is no such historical grounding for the right to abortion care. (In doing so, he used the ideologically loaded term “abortionist” to refer to abortion providers, a label used only by far-Right Christians.)

Referring explicitly to rights to same-sex marriage and private, consensual sexual acts between adults, Alito also wrote: “None of these rights has any claim to being deeply rooted in history.” This essentially invites bigoted state legislators to pass unconstitutional laws banning ‘sodomy’ and revoking same-sex marriage.

Full control of the court was all Republicans needed to render their vision for a racist, patriarchal Christian dystopia

At this point, it also hardly seems a safe assumption that individual states will be allowed to regulate abortion (and later, potentially, various consensual sex acts, contraceptive access, same-sex marriage, and access to transition care for trans individuals). Although many have long believed this would be the case in a post-Roe America, Republicans are already mobilizing to pass a national six-week abortion ban. If they hold both the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress after the 2024 election, which is a distinct possibility – and more likely than not, in my view – I have no doubt that they will do so.

Authoritarians care much less about consistency than they care about power, and the Republican Party is poised to impose a Christofascist theocracy upon all Americans – even though a majority of us are fiercely opposed to their policies. Voter suppression, equal representation in the Senate by state (which gives disproportionate influence to rural states with small populations), and the Electoral College (in which states, rather than individuals, elect the president) combine to grant Republicans political power in the United States that is wildly out of proportion with their numbers or the popularity of their politics. Full control of the court was all they needed to render their vision for a racist, patriarchal Christian dystopia increasingly the reality that all of us are forced to live with.

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Incensed at the leak of Alito’s draft opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts stressed in a statement that it is not final. However, an informed source told Politico, which broke the story, that Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett had initially voted with Alito and remain with him as of this week. Any vote switching seems highly unlikely at this point.

As Politico reported: “How Chief Justice John Roberts will ultimately vote, and whether he will join an already written opinion or draft his own, is unclear.” What is clear, however, is that the Roberts Court will go down in history as a disgraced enabler of the Christian Right’s fascist agenda. However he votes, the conservative chief justice has clearly lost his much-vaunted battle with his own right flank to defend the legitimacy of the institution of the US’s highest court.

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