The End of Roe: The Birth of Post-Liberalism

Red Harris #analysis #abortion #feminism

The end of the protections enshrined by Roe v. Wade appears imminent. After 49 years of precedent, the Supreme Court is poised to roll back the constitutional right to abortion. In the coming weeks, the ruling will be officially issued by the highest court in America, leading to a spate of drastic abortion bans across broad swathes of America. While Roe is already effectively dead and has been since the Texas abortion ban last summer, the official end of a national right to abortion will have grave consequences.

In the leaked draft, Justice Alito outlined his reasoning for overturning nearly five decades of what was considered “settled law”, which, for brevity’s sake, all but nullifies the constitutional right to privacy as well as the concept of “unenumerated rights” (i.e. anything not explicitly outlined in the Constitution). Most worryingly, however, this draft appears to institutionalize the Glucksburg Test, which states that rights must be “deeply rooted in American tradition and history”. Needless to say, this is a judicial time bomb, which will have ramifications spanning everything from LGBTQ protections to racial equality and countless other civil rights.

This is the result of decades upon decades of targeted efforts by the anti-abortion crowd, ranging from concerted electoralist pushes to transform the Republican party into the political juggernaut we see today, to acts of stochastic terrorism to directly harm the capacity of groups to provide reproductive care. The ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, as this case will be remembered in history books, is the culmination of these efforts. However, it is important to remember that the modern moral conservative movement did not form out of a reaction to Roe, it formed earlier, out of reaction to desegregation and Brown v. Board. And even though reimposing segregation was soon driven off the political table after the civil rights movement, it would be a grave error to assume that the current blend of “Great Replacement” conspiracism and hyperconservative reaction won’t eventually come back to it.

The rejection of liberal values (i.e. democracy, equality, human rights) by the political right wing in America means that we are progressing to an era beyond naive political liberalism, and its ghoulish successor, neoliberalism. This era, of Post-Liberalism, heralds something much darker: the total dominance of cultural, social, economic, and governmental institutions by a minoritarian political faction of far right Christian Nationalists that stage farcical hyper-gerrymandered elections to reinforce their vulgar excuse for legitimacy. All this while public services are gutted and a political elite keep the economically downtrodden divided with nearly ritualistic persecutions of minorities and outgroups. Such a system is not new; it has been similarly imposed in Russia, in Hungary, in India, and many other nations across the world and throughout history, and they inevitably have the same outcome of destitution, corruption, and brutal, crushing repression.

What does this mean for America? Well, nothing good. Even with Roe poised to be overturned, and with broad popular support for maintaining Roe and even codifying the national right to abortion, the Democratic party, in typical fashion, appears utterly impotent and incapable of coming to the rescue. The midterms are still lurching in favor of Republicans, and the 2024 election will almost certainly herald a constitutional crisis that the democratic safeguards in this country are simply not prepared for. Hate crimes, white supremacist domestic terrorism, targeted disinformation, and violent rhetoric are all on the rise. Republican-dominated states have been passing wave after wave of anti-trans laws, anti-“CRT” laws, and “Don’t Say Gay” laws. Among these laws are also “fetal personhood” initiatives, which would charge anyone receiving or aiding in abortion care with homicide, even in cases where pregnancy would be fatal, something far more severe than pre-Roe laws. Many of these states are cracking down on the mailing of abortifacients like mifepristone, which is also used to treat miscarriages, thus leading to further strains on reproductive care.

Of these laws, the worst perhaps are the ones that reach across state lines, charging people who leave for blue state sanctuaries to gain abortion access. Not since the days of abhorrences like the Fugitive Slave Act have states attempted to do this. The instant a woman from Idaho or Texas or Missouri is charged for entering Oregon or New Mexico or Illinois for the purposes of getting an abortion, it will set off a domino of legal challenges that leads right to the Supreme Court’s doorstep once more. The Post-Liberal Right cares nothing for ideological consistency, only the fulfillment of their agendas; just as they have struck down Roe with claims of turning the issue back to the states, they will do so again when a second Dredd Scott is issued that severely curtails (if not utterly ends) the right to reproductive autonomy in blue states. This, assuming a national abortion ban isn’t legislated following whatever nightmarish political designs come to pass in the 2024 election. Post-Liberalism will come to all of us, whether through courts, congress, or darker means still.

Once the right to abortion is revoked, along with the rights to same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges), to contraceptives (Griswold v. Connecticut), to same-sex intimacy (Lawrence v. Texas), and countless others, it will not be coming back in our lifetimes, not in these United States. Democrat leaders implore us, the voters, to save Roe by voting for pro-choice candidates, while they themselves not only sponsor anti-choice establishment Dems over committed progressives in primary races, but also still play to the fantasy of bipartisanship. The Republican party is not interested in accepting free and fair elections, nor do they chase the delusion of compromise. The red states of this country are not true democracies but a legion of petty imperia, where “inconvenient” votes are suppressed and the opposition exists in tatters. By all means, vote down the ballot, it’s an important civic function and it should be exercised while it still matters in places where it still does. But voting alone will not save us.

There are not many roads open to maintaining the right to abortion, or indeed, any of the other rights that the political left has fought for over the past century. At least, not through legal channels. We may be entering a new and perilous era, but that does not mean we will be in a particularly new or particularly perilous position. With advances in technology, underground networks can easily be set up to provide abortion care as they were in the days of the Jane Collective or today in arch-conservative Poland (mifepristone is relatively easy to make and can be delivered via drone). Groups like Jane’s Revenge offer a chance at direct action through leaderless resistance against the infrastructure of the anti-abortion movement. Wider collectives, like the LGBTQ, Black, and Jewish communities, are all too familiar with the violence of christofascist white supremacy, but are more resilient and connected than ever.

If Post-Liberalism is to come to pass, if these truly are the twilight years of the pretense of liberty and facade of equality in these United States, then we the people will need to be ready. The death of Roe is not the finale but the opening shot of a long barrage that will roll back the rights we hold dear, and it’s anyone’s guess as to where it will end. And the post-liberals will need to be fought tooth and nail every step of the way, until the fruits of their victory turn to ashes in their mouths.

If they mean to inherit America, then give them the America they deserve.