Supreme Court launches frontal assault on right to abortion

(The title of a column by Patrick Martin, wsws.org. Dec. 2 (with permission to republish all the site’s work)

“Wednesday’s oral arguments on abortion before the Supreme Court showed how close the court is to rescinding this fundamental democratic right, with colossal political consequences.

Two generations of Americans have no experience of the world before Roe v. Wade, during which obtaining an abortion was a surreptitious, often criminalized process, sometimes ending in physical mutilation and even death, and the right of women to make such decisions was subordinated to the reactionary ministrations of police, priests and politicians. They will react with justified fury to this attempt to turn back the clock.

The hearing underscored the role of a clerical-reactionary faction in the US ruling elite, closely allied to the fascistic forces headed by ex-President Donald Trump. The prominence of right-wing Catholics on the high court—Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and Chief Justice John Roberts—has particular significance on the issue of abortion, where they are imposing a religious dogma in flagrant violation of the separation of church and state.

These five justices, plus Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, have clearly decided to uphold the Mississippi law banning abortion after a pregnancy reaches 15 weeks. The six justices asked few questions and seemed largely indifferent to the arguments being made. Their main concern was whether the case should be used for an immediate repeal of the landmark 1973 ruling, or whether to uphold the Mississippi law on narrower grounds, while not yet officially repealing Roe.

This would accomplish the same goal a bit more slowly, since it would abolish the standard set by Roe and the 1992 follow-up decision in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, which upheld the right to abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, at approximately 23 weeks.

If fetal viability is no longer the standard, there is no judicial reason why the 15-week limit set by Mississippi could not be further lowered, to 12 weeks, eight weeks, or even six weeks, before most women even know they are pregnant. A six-week “limit” would be essentially the same as an outright ban.

Much of the hearing was given over to the three remaining moderate liberal members venting their concern that the court was discrediting itself in the eyes of the American people, who overwhelmingly support abortion rights. (Opinion polls on the eve of the hearing found huge majorities opposed to repealing Roe v. Wade, ranging up to 75 percent in an ABC/Washington Post survey.)

Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor all warned that the court was taking unprecedented action in threatening a democratic right on which millions have relied for the past 50 years and doing so only because the composition of the court has changed, not because of any change in the nature of the issue or in public sentiment.

The sharpest criticism came from Sotomayor, who cited the statements of Mississippi state legislators, openly declaring that they had passed the 15-week law “because we have new justices.” She asked, “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it’s possible.”

The composition of the court is itself a manifestation of the decay of American democracy, brought to the brink of collapse last January 6 when Trump attempted to overturn the 2020 election and maintain himself in power.

Trump himself appointed three of the six members of the ultra-right majority. The newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett, was installed only days before the election, while Trump was openly declaring he would not abide by the results and was counting on Barrett to adjudicate a challenge to the election of Biden in the Supreme Court.

Neil Gorsuch was named to a seat held open for nine months by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who insisted that Barack Obama did not have the right to fill a vacancy during a presidential election year—a precedent he cynically repudiated to push through Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett four years later.

The Democratic Party conducted no serious opposition to any of Trump’s nominations. They protested impotently over Gorsuch. They side-tracked the hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s second nominee, into a #MeToo-style diversion, while avoiding any discussion of his right-wing views and his role in the impeachment conspiracy against Bill Clinton.

This process reached its nadir with Barrett, the law professor affiliated with a reactionary Catholic secret society, who replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There was no basis in identity politics to oppose replacing a woman with another woman, and the Democrats were busy covering up Trump’s ongoing conspiracy to overturn the election, so they simply stood by as the court was moved sharply further to the right.

The Democrats have spent the past two decades accommodating and adapting to the right-wing attack on abortion rights. The New York Times—a quasi-official publication of the Democratic Party—marked the looming onslaught on the right to abortion by publishing and prominently featuring a rant by Ross Douthat, under the headline “The Case Against Abortion.”

The right to abortion is a class question. For all the handwringing of the Democrats, their social base in the upper middle class is not unduly exercised at the prospect of the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Women with money will still have access to abortion if they want it. They can easily travel to California or the Northeast, where it will still be legal, or even to Canada and Europe.

It is a far different question for working-class women in the South, the Midwest and other states where abortion would become severely restricted or outright illegal in the event of the repeal of Roe. Even now, lower-income women in those states have great difficulty in obtaining an abortion—in Mississippi, for example, there is only one clinic providing abortions in the entire state.

In Texas, the new state law authorizing vigilante civil lawsuits over any abortion provided after six weeks of pregnancy has virtually shut down access to abortion services in the second largest US state, forcing women to drive hundreds of miles to Oklahoma, Louisiana or New Mexico, with the risk of losing their jobs because of the time off work and at great expense.

Figures presented to the Supreme Court in amicus briefs and during the oral argument document the hardship for working women. One in four women will seek an abortion in her lifetime, and of these, 75 percent are low income, 59 percent already have children, and 55 percent experience disruptive life events, such as losing a job or a partner, which are factors in their choice to end a pregnancy.

The far-right political forces being mobilized to destroy the right to abortion are the same forces that have played a leading role in demanding the ending of all restrictions on the COVID-19 pandemic and which came close to establishing a fascist dictatorship with the coup attempt of January 6.

The Democrats have capitulated to these political forces over and over: They have totally accepted the demands for the reopening of schools and abandonment of other pandemic restrictions, and they have sought to cover up the role of their Republican “colleagues” in the January 6 coup attempt.

The fight to defend abortion rights cannot be waged through the political parties representing any faction of the capitalist oligarchy or the affluent upper-middle class. As with all democratic rights, it requires the mobilization of the working class as an independent political force in opposition to the ruling class and the capitalist system.”

You may recall that when advised that Roe (1973) is ‘settled law’, Margaret Atwood would always answer: ‘Wanna Bet?’ I found this:

The Handmaid’s Tale’ trends as Supreme Court decides to revisit Roe v. Wade', Nahila Bonfiglio, Dec 2, 2021

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wendy davis's picture

dec. 2: Colorado Democrats announce plan to protect abortion rights, Bill will be introduced during next legislative session

At a rally in front of the Colorado State Capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers said they would introduce legislation early next session to codify protections for the full range of reproductive care, including abortions, into state law.

“It’s time to ensure that Colorado is truly a legal and safe place for anyone seeking access to their right to reproductive care,” state Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, said.
That legislation, dubbed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, will be sponsored by Gonzales, state Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Greenwood Village, and House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo. State lawmakers return to the Capitol on Jan. 12.
“Our vision is a Colorado where abortion care is treated as health care, and when someone decides to have an abortion or seek out reproductive health care, they are able to get that care on the timeline they need with the support of the physician and health care providers whom they trust,” Gonzales said.

.....

With Wednesday’s oral arguments and the examples set by the Mississippi law and the Texas ban from earlier this year, the lawmakers said other states could be emboldened to enact their own abortion restrictions. Women from states with limited abortion access already travel to Colorado for safer, more accessible care.

“We need a world, and a Colorado, where abortion isn’t just legal, but it must be accessible, affordable and supported in our communities,” Froelich said.

A ballot measure that would have limited abortion access failed in 2020, as did a 2008 constitutional amendment question that would have defined “personhood” as beginning at the moment of conception.

“The right to abortion is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, and here in Colorado we’ve made that clear at the ballot box over and over again,” Froelich said.

....then the CO congress-critters weighed in similarly. i'm pretty sure that CO was the first state to make abortion legal.

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zed2's picture

call to the nation that we need a real democratic (not Democratic (TM) party, soon.

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wendy davis's picture

@zed2

it just depends on 'slow-mo' or 'one swell foop'.

but i admit i'm bewildered by the scant interest in this news, so thanks for reading and commenting, amigo.

i didn't grok the US states and colors, though.

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@wendy davis Being a Texan, it is a subject that I find impossible to discuss in purely legal terms. It leads to immediate reveals of a person's religious beliefs.
I am simply sick that Texas found some magic law that deprives women of the most important health decision they would ever make, and when it was upheld in appellate courts, I foresaw this bill as spreading through the US.
Only women are having their personal freedom limited, and a personal choice imposed by government. I always saw the whole pro-life movement as a way to punish women, put them in their proper, meaning second, place.

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wendy davis's picture

@on the cusp
and yes, women's reproductive rights are of immense importance. there is/was a member here whose father was shot and killed (as i remember it) at the last clinic that provided terminations in some state. i wish i could recall his name, bless his heart.

and many women in many states had to run a gamut of pro-lifers to get inside planned parenthood clinics; some states even required a woman needing/wanting an abortion to watch films of fetal sonograms a week ahead of the planned procedure. the images are chilling.

Only women are having their personal freedom limited, and a personal choice imposed by government. I always saw the whole pro-life movement as a way to punish women, put them in their proper, meaning second, place.

yes, back to the handmaid's tale. (shiver...) and i sure did think of you when Martin wrote of Texas vigilante (heath care) justice.

(edited for typos)

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@wendy davis loves the Original Sin part of the Old Testament, but typically ignores the teachings of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
You ought to see the billboards on our highways.
NOTHING is worse than a legal abortion!
The next billboard with be celebrating guns and ammo, but resulting death from those are justified, also backed by the Good Book.
I just don't know where we will wind up in this society.

.

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wendy davis's picture

@on the cusp

in decades, but i do believe you on billboards. Original sin = Eve in the old testament, then? i used to have a friend that recounted some of the missing chapters of the bible in which women were more powerful, or at least equal, to males. Lilith, ,others,maybe?

'where will this society end up?', indeed.

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The democrats didn't fight for state legislature representation and wound up fighting on 2 fronts. It didn't work for Hitler and it didn't work for them. They raised absolutely obscene tons of money saying they would protect all these rights and do all these great things, and are doing neither.

Once the r's take back the senate, or house, or both, all those blue states will be under the gun to restrict abortion, states rights be damned. I imagine criminalizing anyone that has anything to do with abortion, from health care providers to pharmacies will be targets. The r's did a good job on Planned Parenthood and I can see them with a style Hyde amendment and use on the blue states, such as "money is fungible, how do we know the highway tax, food stamp money, any money we give you won't somehow be used for abortions?"

Once they get that, then require doctors to report which women they examine are pregnant, so they can monitor if the woman is attempting to leave the country, and if after 9 months they can't produce a baby and a birth certificate, charge them with murder. If they required a woman to be examined with a dildo shaped ultrasound probe, they'll do anything.

The democrats spent a lot of time on immigration protecting non citizens, but let voting rights and protecting citizens slide. How with the bulk of the republican states being gerrymandered the dems could even think they'll be relevant in 2022 or 2024 baffles me.

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snoopydawg's picture

@Snode

Kaine is anti abortion and boy if that didn’t send a message. Democrats could have brought up Kavanaugh's abhorrent history as a judge and other things to try to prevent him from getting on. And they did almost nothing to stop Barrett. They had lots of procedural things they could have done to keep her off, but they didn’t even bother to try. Anyone even know what Pelosi did besides saying that she would use every arrow in her quiver? She certainly didn’t use any of them. Schumer? Please.

Plus democrats let McConnell stack the federal courts and every person nominated got an okay from a democrat because of how blue slips work. Both senators from a state have to agree for them to advance. And then democrats voted for many, and Schumer let McConnell fast track 15 once because he wanted to go home. Shame on democrats for here we are. And if the court reverses roe it’s going to affect lots of other decided cases and reek havoc on our rights. That might actually be the goal.

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It is not until the tide goes out that you discover who has been swimming naked.

wendy davis's picture

@snoopydawg

contains several items i' never known, especially about tim kaine. i guess he never even made it onto my radar.

jeezum crow:

Anyone even know what Pelosi did besides saying that she would use every arrow in her quiver? She certainly didn’t use any of them. Schumer? Please.

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@snoopydawg you write a good walk down history lane. It's sadly predictable. Bring this up next primary and it'll be the same old "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, don't be disloyal, keep your powder dry, 9th dimensional chess and please send money, this time we'll actually fight. Promise!!!". Sometimes I think the democratic base is mostly 'bots.

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wendy davis's picture

@Snode

and with this you've answered why i was confused about the blue states on the map:

Once the r's take back the senate, or house, or both, all those blue states will be under the gun to restrict abortion, states rights be damned.

aren't there pharmacies that either don't carry RU 486 (the morning after pill or don't require pharmacists who object to refuse to hand them out?

lord love a duck, how could i have forgotten this sort of legalized rape?

If they required a woman to be examined with a dildo shaped ultrasound probe, they'll do anything.

thanks, snode; it's just all so terrifying to me.

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zed2's picture

The huge incomes right wing churches extract frm adoptions is why they want to kill womens right to choose. RW churches sometimes make up to $150,000 for each adoption they close. Often the customers are wealthy European couples who want babies "that look like them" . They engage in bidding wars, etc.

There may be, I suspect strongly, a secretive dirty deal that gives the churches exclusive rights to engage in these transactions. This deal if it exists must be one of the largest sources of income for churches in much of the more backwards and repressive parts of America. They engage in shaming of unmarried mothers their children and lobby actively to keep our people poor and our healthcare system fucked up at a huge cost in human lives. Its been like this for at least 25 or 30 yrs. Expose the dirty adoption profits and whatever their backroom deal is with corrupt politicians expose what this deal is and only then, deprived of this money, will they stop trying to destroy Roe. v. Wade.

They go nuts when its pointed out how mean they are to women who wont let themselves be intimidated out of their children. The baby selling Mafia sees every baby kept by its mother as a huge theft from them of the faith based "adoption facilitation" profits they claim entitlement to.

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wendy davis's picture

@zed2

the sordid charges you're making here, but i suppose it's possible.

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zed2's picture

In fact, winning poses big problems for today's Democratic Party. The reasons should be obvious to people here, are they? If they arent, let me try to explain why thats the case to you. Really, It should be obvious why if you understand the huge changes that have been made since Jan 1, 1995..

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If this will get Republican voting women to think twice. I doubt it

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wendy davis's picture

@gjohnsit

will depend on their class/monetary worths, and ages. but then, vote for whom? all politician and candidates lie, especially to get elected. i vote Green, which many including the Great Noam Chomsky and other 'leftists', say is a wasted vote.

Pffffffft.

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