Roe VS Wade, the United States Supreme Court decision that made abortion access a constitutional right across the country, may be on the verge of being overturned. A draft of a would-be majority opinion was just leaked to Politico:
The Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulated inside the court and obtained by POLITICO.
The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes.
A person familiar with the court’s deliberations said that four of the other Republican-appointed justices – Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – had voted with Alito in the conference held among the justices after hearing oral arguments in December, and that line-up remains unchanged as of this week.
For an explainer on the court case at hand and what it means, check out Gavin’s post here.
This is huge news. If this opinion is more or less the one that the court will hand down when it decides on the case in June, it would be, by far, the biggest legal victory for the pro-life movement in more than half a century. It wouldn’t have implications just for the US – it would be a massive sign of hope that the battle for prenatal justice is not fated to only go one way.
What does that mean for pro-lifers both inside and outside the United States? How should we respond in the here and now? I think the leak provides us with opportunities and risks. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but here’s my two cents on what to do – and what not to.
What not to do
1. Count chickens before they’ve hatched
This is a leak. It’s not a final decision. It’s possible that it may have been leaked in an attempt to turn public opinion against overturn and push one of the justices to change their view. Regardless, nothing is final. It’s not over until the decision is handed down.
2. Take it as an opportunity to stick it to pro-choice people / “the libs”
A lot of pro-choice people will be extremely worried or upset about the overturn of Roe. They’ll see it not as a great human rights victory but as a huge setback. We want to help people change their minds. They won’t be at all inclined to do that if the main response they see from pro-lifers is ugly tribal warfare. I’ve already seen takes to the effect of “cry more, libs”. This is helping absolutely no-one.
Our friends at the Equal Rights Institute are on-point as usual:
What to do
1. Take the chance to start a conversation
One of the most common questions we get at Minimise is “how do I start a conversation about abortion in the first place?” Well, now a bunch of them will be started for you! If you overhear people talking about the decision, it can be a chance to say something. That can be something small (just letting people know that you’re pro-life), or it can be a full-on discussion, or anything in between.
For ideas for how to approach these conversations once they start, check out our post:
For more on the substance of the abortion debate, refresh yourself about personhood arguments and bodily rights arguments.
2. Donate to a good crisis pregnancy centre or another form of practical support for women and their babies
This should go without saying: a post-Roe America is one in which more women will need financial, social, and community support. There are a lot of good people and organisations out there providing that kind of support. Whether you’re inside or outside the US, pro-lifers should do our part to help them reach all the people who need it.
3. Paint a picture of what you’d want a post-Roe society to look like
This is very much related to the previous two points. Whether it’s in-person or on social media, pro-lifers should be trying to let people know what we really want society to look like. For a lot of people, the image they have in their mind of the society that pro-lifers want is basically The Handmaid’s Tale.
We of course want to help disabuse people of that notion – but we also want to make it clear that what we want is not just “everything is the same except abortion is illegal”. We want a society in which every human being is genuinely treasured and valued. That means better parental leave, that means increased child benefit, that means social and cultural norms that stop pathologising pregnancy and making it an obstacle to living a rich and fulfilling life.
When Ireland repealed our Eighth Amendment banning abortion, we wrote about how progress for pro-lifers wouldn’t be a matter of just winding the clock back to the way the country was pre-repeal, but rather moving forward and building a society that is truly serious about human equality.
The United States is in many ways even further from being such a society than Ireland was pre-repeal: its social safety net for women and babies is often very very weak. If we want people to change their minds about abortion we have to make it clear that we’re serious about doing everything we can to ensure that no-one feels forced into it by economic necessity or social pressure.