So where do we go from here?

Check out Cynthia Gorney’s piece for the NY Times, Imagine a Nation Without Roe v. Wade. After giving a brief purview of the states that still have pre-Roe abortion laws on the books (Michigan, Colorado, Alabama & fourteen others) and the states likely to keep abortion legal (New York, Maryland, California & seventeen others), she offers this thought-provoking passage:
“Roe created the national right-to-life movement, forging a powerful instant alliance among what had been scores of scattered local opposition groups. What would happen to that movement, should the galvanizing target of its loathing suddenly disappear? How different would it be, fighting on simultaneous multiple fronts? And how would politicians react if an antiabortion vote were no longer easy theater, an appeasement gesture likely to be neutralized by court challenge, but instead could actually make abortion a felony? How might voters themselves react, if the election booth decision could truly make the yes or no difference?
While I believe with my heart/mind/soul that the majority of women *aren’t willing to go back*, I believe that a post-Roe society is something that we must think *critically* about. And not just in a oh-my-god-it’s-too-scary-to-think-about kind of way. What *would* happen to the reproductive rights of women in red states? Would their state legislatures suddenly develop a conscience? Or would women be the victims of their conservative state legislatures? Would the issue be contentious enough that state legislators would allow constituents to go to the polls and vote directly on the issue? And if the polls are right, and the majority of Republicans are pro-choice, how would this sentiment map onto a post-Roe political landscape?
To this end, Gorney concludes with a warning to the left:
“Since the last presidential election, reflective discussion among Democrats has included the once unthinkable proposition that the end of Roe might not prove an unqualified disaster after all – that the political process, and Democrats themselves, might have something to gain from the tumult that such a ruling would set off in the states. This thinking isn’t lost on the other side. ‘All it’s going to do is kind of balkanize the pro-life battle into 50 individual battles,’ said a Michigan anti-choice lobbyist. ‘There’s always the phrase, Be careful what you wish for.’”
Well *clearly* none of us are wishing for this outcome. But it leaves us with the same old question–where do we go from here?

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3 Comments

  1. Diane
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    This article was a little odd, to my mind. It quotes extensively from materials produced by the Center for Reproductive Rights, and notes that they have been litigating abortion rights cases for years. Yet, it also seems to agree with the proposition that the abortion battle would be “balkanized” if Roe were reversed. Well, where does Gorney think CRR (and the ACLU an Planned Parenthood) have been litigating all these years? In the states! Every legislative cycle brings new anti-choice initiatives in a number of states. The major abortion-rights organizations battle these first in the legislatures, and then, when they’re unsuccessful, in the courts in each state. Some of these cases are in federal court, arguing about the exact parameters of the right to an abortion as articulated in Roe, Casey, etc. and some are in state courts seeking broader protections than the federal courts allow for. This “balkanization” of the battle has been in existence, well, forever. I was going to say “since Roe”, but it’s how things were before Roe as well.
    So if Roe were overturned, the state battles would certainly heat up, especially in a handful of key states. But it’s not like there aren’t battles going on there already. More money would pour in from both sides for both lobbying and litigation, although probably most of the money would come from the left — finally scared into believing that abortion might be in fact be outlawed in some places. And young women would feel more strongly than ever that this is their issue too (although it’s clear that young women already feel a lot of ownership of this issue).
    The truth is, I’m not sure if Roe being overturned would represent such a completely different situation than the current one, as an intensified version.
    Given all this, you ask, where do we go from here? It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have those state battles joined by a lot more people with a lot more money. State legislatures don’t act in isolation any more than Congress does, and individual members of those legislatures are a lot more sensitive to local pressure than members of Congress. The focus for activists should be on the state level. If you don’t know what’s going on in your own state right now, you should learn and become involved in the pro-choice efforts there. NARAL, PP and the ACLU affiliates are all good sources of information. The Center for Reproductive Rights keeps track of state developments here.

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