We Need to Think Deeper About Who Will Be Affected If Roe v Wade Is Overturned
Alexa Wright #analysis #opinion
The draft opinion threatening to overturn Roe vs Wade is not simply an attack on women. Before tackling this nuanced subject it is important to understand the precedent set by the 1973 decision. Norma McCorvey, known under the pseudonym Jane Roe, was five months pregnant in 1970 when she desired an abortion. Henry Wade, the Dallas County district attorney at the time, served as the defendant in this case hence the name “Roe vs Wade.” With the help of lawyers from her home county of Dallas, Texas, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, McCorvey secured the right to abortion for all people until the fetus could survive outside of the womb on Jan. 22 1973, with a 7-2 majority vote. On May 2nd 2022, Politico published a leaked draft opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito displaying the court’s intention to overturn Roe and another landmark abortion decision, Planned Parenthood vs Casey. This decision is often viewed exclusively as an attack on women, however this could not be further from the truth. This decision directly targets all people who can get pregnant and zeros in on those in poverty, people of color, and potentially members of the LGBTQ+ community; It is a chilling display of the United States’ descent into theocratic fascism.
Popular neoliberal feminism often views the scope of feminism to only apply to “women’s issues”, this view of feminism is a part of the problem. It is not a feminism for all women but rather a feminism for the 1 percent, where “girlboss” women are praised as progress for “breaking the glass ceiling” while stepping on the backs of impoverished women and people of color to reach it. Cinzia Arruzza describes an alternative “Feminism for the 99 Percent” in her manifesto, claiming that feminism should represent “all who are exploited, dominated, and oppressed” (Arruzza et. al, pp. 14, 2019) by our capitalist society. Using this idea of feminism to analyze the Supreme Court’s attack on abortion rights we see that not just women are affected by this decision. Rather, this is an attack on all who can get pregnant, minorities, and the poor. Capitalism is built on the grounds of exploitation, this country’s infrastructure was built mostly by slave labor, and a drastic racial wealth gap displays that not much has changed. Two centuries of systemic racism in the form of Jim Crow Laws, voter suppression, redlining, and the over-policing of primarily black neighborhoods has led the median income of a black family to be just 10% of the median income of a white family (Urban Institute, Survey of Consumer Finances, 2016). Modern capitalism seeks to reinforce this oppression, forcing struggling BIPOC mothers to birth a child they cannot take care of and then refusing to allow them government assistance. This is not done without reason, the cycle of exploitation that facilitates capitalism requires children to be born into poverty and forced to take low paying jobs in order to keep the economy moving. With over 1 million workers lost during the pandemic, our elites need more people to exploit, and how better to find more workers than to create them via forced birth? It is not uncommon for countries in late stage capitalism to begin to swing right and restrict the rights and freedoms of the workers, we are currently living in one of these periods. The Roe v Wade decision will likely foreshadow several other freedoms being stripped as well.
It is reasonable to fear that our rights pertaining to situations other than abortion are at risk if Roe v Wade is overturned. This is because Roe is protected under the constitutional “right to privacy” which conservatives on the Supreme Court have argued since the right to privacy is not explicitly stated in the US Constitution is null. The question of if the bill of rights protects the rights that are not expressly stated in the Constitution is controversial. The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment is most often cited in cases involving the right to privacy. The 14th Amendment states, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” In the case of Roe v Wade, the court determined that the right to privacy is fundamental and the state may only intervene in abortions, with exceptions for the mother’s health, after the point of viability (approximately 24 weeks). The fact that Roe may be overturned on the grounds that the right to privacy does not exist in the Constitution puts many other landmark Supreme Court decisions on the chopping block. These include: Griswold v Connecticut and Eisenstadt v Baird (the right to contraception), Lawrence v Texas (the right to be in a same sex relationship, phrased as the right to perform sodomy), Loving v Virginia (The right to interracial marriage), and Obergefell v Hodges (The right to same sex marriage). These rights among others are also common points of conservative attack, with anti-CRT and LGBTQ+ book bans occurring across the nation. With these factors in account, it would be reasonable to assume that an increasingly radical right wing would overturn any of these cases following the overturning of Roe v Wade.
The Roe vs Wade decision is a mark of the United States’ descent into fascism. Historically, when fascist authoritarian regimes start to take power they begin by slowly stripping the rights of the people, weakening them so they cannot fight back. Losing our rights to bodily autonomy is a clear example of this. Fascist regimes often go after education, forcing students to learn only what the state wants them to learn. This is displayed clearly in the banning of books relating to race, gender, and sexuality across the country. Authoritarian right wing policies such as the state of Texas considering the death penalty for facilitating an abortion have already begun to rear their ugly heads. Another marker of a fascist regime, high and militant police presence and unethical policing practices have existed in the US for a very long time and state and federal governments continue to raise funding for police departments, while their constituents are left starving and without healthcare or shelter. The US police force would be the third largest military in the world behind the US and China respectively if we compare it to modern militaries. We are not on the brink of a descent into fascism, it has already begun.
There is no true equality and justice under capitalism. The system was developed by those with ideas of white supremacy in mind, and facilitated on the backs of enslaved people. These sentiments are deeply rooted into the capitalist economic system and everyone except the wealthiest elites are suffering to keep it running. This is especially true for BIPOC, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and those in poverty. Neoliberalism will not save us, voting will not save us, revolution will save us. Many liberals would argue that it is paramount that we keep abortion legal, but this is not enough. Cinzia Arruzza describes this well in saying, “By itself, legal abortion does little for poor and working-class women who have neither the means to pay for it nor access to clinics that provide it. Rather, reproductive justice requires free, universal, not-for-profit health care, as well as the end of racist, eugenicist practices in the medical profession.” (Arruzza et. al, pp. 14, 2019) There is no reforming an exploitative, racist, and oppressive system; this system must be revolutionarily dismantled by the people so that a new anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-fascist, and just system may be formed and governed by the 99 percent, not the 1 percent of elites who currently run our governmental system.