Point of View Columns

Overturning Roe v. Wade – Lessons To Be Learned

As you are reading this America is reeling from the nightmarish scenario brought on by the Supreme Court overturning Roe V. Wade. However, there is no time to howl with outrage when it is critically important to learn lessons from this decision – how it came about, what it means and what can/should be done.

Lesson #1 – Elections do matter. When Roe V. Wade was decided in 1973, anti-abortion forces coalesced in a virtual crusade to overturn the Supreme Court decision which established a woman’s right to abortion. An ecumenical coalition of religious zealots which encompassed representatives of virtually all faiths collaborated with right wing conservatives to abolish the right established by Roe.

This collaboration was manifested in decades of political and electoral initiatives at the local, state and national levels with the ultimate focus being Congress and the Supreme Court. And while it has been highly unlikely that Congress would pass a law abolishing abortion, the Supreme Court was another story. The goal was just to get five like-minded justices. And thanks to Donald Trump (and all of the people who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because it wouldn’t make a difference), they got what they wanted.

And during all this time Democrats, progressives, liberals and moderated refused to believe that the sky would ever fall and never made abortion rights a critical article of faith and a critical campaign issue. And so now we have all learned that elections do matter.

Lesson #2 – No rights are permanent. In the history of the United States and its imperfect democracy, there has never been a moment where an established right has been withdrawn. Historically rights not specifically articulated in the Constitution have been established over the past two centuries – emancipation from slavery, birthright citizenship and the right of women to vote are just some of the rights that have been established by Congress and the courts. This makes sense in light of the fact that in 1787 the Constitution could not have contemplated the right to drive a car or the right to not have one’s electronic communications put under surveillance.

However, until now there has never been judicially established constitutional right that has been taken away. And if that right can be taken away then any right established since the Constitution was ratified can be taken away – same sex marriage, interracial marriage, the unconditional right to vote, contraception, gender-based rights – are just some of the rights that could be at risk.

The lesson is that it is important to learn and pay attention to how government works and how it impacts on our lives whether we pay attention or not.

Lesson #3 – Elections do matter.


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