Three Ways the Supreme Court Just Changed America

From a story on politico.com headlined “17 Ways the Supreme Court Just Changed America”:

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will create two Americas when it comes to abortion access — the mostly red states where abortion is illegal in most circumstances, and the mostly blue states where it is mostly available with restrictions. But this sudden cleaving in the United States will go far beyond abortion access, affecting healthcare, the criminal legal system and politics, at all levels, in the coming years.

We can’t know exactly how all of this will change. But we asked a group of historians, legal scholars and women’s health experts what they think will happen to the abortion landscape in the United States, and how that will affect law, politics, healthcare and society. Some thought the reversal of Roe would soothe political polarization by taking abortion out of national politics. Others thought the exact opposite would happen: Abortion would become a front-burner political issue at all levels, pushing our already-extreme polarization to boil over. Still others thought the decision wouldn’t make much of a difference — because aren’t the states and the parties pretty much sorted already?

The long-term outcome of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling is anything but clear right now. But hearing a range of thinkers’ best guesses at where we could go can give us insight into the visions of the country that anti-abortion and pro-abortion groups will be fighting for now that 50 years of Roe v. Wade are firmly behind us.

‘This decision will push abortion to the center of every political race in the country and polarize U.S. politics even more.’

Charles Sykes is editor-at-large of the Bulwark.

The dream of the anti-abortion movement has always been that overturning Roe would usher in a new era of respect for life. The goal has been to change the law and then hearts and minds. Unfortunately, this seems unlikely, because the court’s decision tosses abortion into the center of an already-boiling culture war. If anything, this decision will push abortion to the center of every political race in the country and polarize U.S. politics even more.

Instead of what Catholics have called a “seamless garment,” or holistic reverence for life, post-Roe America will be even more bitterly polarized. In recent years, our debates over everything from masking to race have become more shrill and tribal. Litmus tests overwhelm reason, and rage drowns out prudence.

And now we get to do abortion.

A post-Roe America will feature a stark divide among states, and vast gaps in access to health care for women based on their zip codes. While red states impose criminal penalties, blue states will expand taxpayer funding for abortion. American women will be living in two very different countries.

Ironically, the states with the most draconian laws will be the least likely to also pass legislation that enhance the social safety net for children or families.

And abortion will now become the bloody shirt of our politics at every level: Every race for governor and state legislature — and every presidential, congressional, and senate race — will be a referendum on a woman’s right to choose, and her unborn child’s right to life.

Young people ‘won’t see this country as a democracy.’

Erin Aubry Kaplan is a journalist in Los Angeles.

In my fantasy, now that Roe has been overturned, people will rise up over the next decade, the will of the majority of Americans who have consistently supported the right to abortion will shift the center of political gravity and the court will respond by restoring abortion rights.

My fear, and what seems more likely, is that people will start accommodating yet another blow to democracy orchestrated by a minority of people who don’t represent the rest of us.

But abortion will find ways. Women will use pills instead of surgical abortions, those with means and time will travel to abortion “sanctuaries” like my state, California. There will also be illegal abortions everywhere, which by definition will make them much riskier, legally and medically. And more expensive.

There’s been a lot of talk about how the end of Roe will reopen the door for eliminating other personal and civil rights that took a long time to establish — gay marriage, interracial marriage. This is another blow to the steady realization of equality and other democratic ideals, making us relitigate what we thought we put to rest, that should be put to rest. The prospect is exhausting, and demoralizing to those of us who see America as a place to seed and expand human rights, not take them away.

This decision will ‘give both parties an opportunity to move toward the center on abortion.’

Michael Wear is the author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America.

Over the coming decade, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs will give both parties an opportunity to move toward the center on abortion. If they take it, this decision could ease the hyper-partisanship of American politics.

The Dobbs decision offers an opportunity for Democrats to establish a position on abortion that respects the more nuanced views on abortion of their growing non-white base and the majority of Americans and frees millions who are morally conflicted about abortion. This shift would entail a rejection of the zero-sum demands of progressive activists whose support for unlimited access to abortion helped lead to this moment and the pursuit of federal legislation that would provide a baseline of access to abortion nationally. Instead, up to this point, Democrats have responded with an ill-fated push for the Women’s Health Protection Act. As Democratic strategist Lis Smith wrote, the WHPA is “so broad in its provisions — superseding all state-level restrictions on abortion and all exemptions for religious institutions — that it couldn’t begin to win a majority vote.” Democrats can change course, as Senator Tim Kaine seems to understand.

This approach would seem to be consistent with the political and moral intuitions of President Joe Biden through the vast majority of his career; the president once hailed his own “middle-of-the-road” approach to abortion.

If Republicans recognize this moment for what it is, they’ll understand that it’s their job now to ensure the majority of the American people come to believe that the post-Dobbs abortion rights landscape is tolerable and sustainable, which was not achieved by those who support Roe. To advance this aim, Republicans and anti-abortion groups would understand that draconian laws in the most conservative states would undermine the project of building a post-Roe America and take a much more active role in policing their own side. As Republican-controlled states move to pass legislation restricting abortion post-Dobbs, they would do so without criminalizing women, and in tandem with robust supports for women and families. Republicans would make poverty alleviation for families a top priority, and advance policies that aggressively combat pregnancy discrimination. If pro-life groups lose the fight to convince the American people that the new status quo is acceptable, they may lose everything they gained with Dobbs.

Unfortunately, polarization is such that our parties will likely miss the moment, and respond with more of the same. Democratic states with already liberal abortion laws will pursue even greater expansions of abortion rights, while Democrats in Congress pursue legislation they know will not pass and hope they can use the issue to their advantage in the midterms and beyond. Republicans will seek to downplay the import of the decision and fail to make significant adjustments to their priorities that would help make a post-RoeAmerica more sustainable, while conservative states pass laws that make the new status quo intolerable for many Democrats, Independents and even some Republicans. In 10 years, the Supreme Court may have to step in once again, imposing yet another new abortion regime in lieu of leadership from elected officials.

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