Conservatives have long insisted that less government is better. They often talk about wanting Uncle Sam out of our private lives. They want Americans free to live life on their terms.
Unless that American is a woman.
Oh yes, conservatives want to control a woman’s womb. They argue that abortion isn’t a freedom; it’s a murder.
Well, their belief seems to have won the day. After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned more than a year ago the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, conservatives have pushed abortion into the back alleys, where butchery used to serve as surgery.
Regardless of the circumstances, they argued that the womb belonged to anybody but the woman.
Four men (and one woman) on the high court made that judgment, ditching precedence and the reasoned argument Justice Harry A. Blackmun, no bleeding heart, made when he crafted the Roe opinion 50 years ago.
“The heart of the matter is that somewhere, either forthwith at conception, or at ‘quickening,’ or at birth, or at some other point in between, another being becomes involved and the privacy the woman possessed has become dual rather than sole,” Blackmun wrote in the first draft of his abortion opinion.
“It is not for us the judiciary, especially at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, to speculate or specify when life begins.”
Yet Blackmun’s opinion faced scrutiny from the moment people read it. Lawyers on the right, conservative evangelicals and right-wing politicians chiseled at the ruling in state after state.
Some states ignored Roe and passed laws so draconian that a woman dared not abort a fetus on their soil.
Faced with much confusion, the high court, which the former President Donald Trump remade with his three appointees, was forced to tackle the issue afresh.
Roe was doomed.
Speaking for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito wrote: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Alito is right about the Constitution. Yet that same document makes no reference to climate control or ownership of bazookas or buying cigarettes. Like some of his colleagues, Alito tries to view the document as the founding fathers did.
“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” Alito wrote.
These 18 words undid Blackmun’s work.
Now, the rush from state to state is to pass anti-abortion standards of the strictest kind. State lawmakers have the court’s blessing.
But what about the women? Hasn’t Alito’s opinion put the government squarely into their lives for no reason? Doesn’t it do what the First Amendment says government ought not do, which is to keep church separate from the state?
In my mind, abortion is a religious issue more than a medical one. But it’s also a woman’s issue and not a man’s.
Until men take our hands off the womb, women will have no choice but to return to the back alleys or travel abroad for surgery. For many of them, the legality of abortion will remain an issue that stays in play.
They’ll continue to remind conservatives that this fight isn’t over.