Reproductive Rights As a Trifle

While we are on the subject of abortion policy, Michael Barone’s take on the Veep debate included a cynical thought that you often hear expressed by “sophisticated” conservatives who figure all the baby-killer talk is just yahoo-bait for the “base,” and understand nothing will actually affect the lives of people they know:

[M]oderator Martha Raddatz’s question about abortion, inviting Biden to appeal to the issue that supposedly “women” care about more than any other, struck a tinny note as young voters are not afraid that abortion will somehow be suddenly criminalized by the Supreme Court, as Biden suggested it would although a reversal of Roe v. Wade would only send the issue to the states, few if any of which would vote to criminalize abortion.

The assumption here is that the anti-choicers who have an absolute, in-writing veto power over judicial appointments and reproductive right policies in the next Republican administration will stupidly be satisfied with a reversal of Roe v. Wade that–haha, fooled you!–actually doesn’t change anything. Legislatures and governors in some of those flyover states might ban abortions, but surely women can just jet off for a weekend in Chicago or New York and take care of the problem, right? I mean, that’s what they did before Roe, and it worked pretty well, right?

I don’t know what’s worse in this attitude: the contempt towards serious anti-choicers, who will not rest until a gun is held over every pregnant woman (and that means from the moment an ovum is fertilized!) in the whole wide world to ensure she carries the fetus to term, or the contempt towards women, especially poor women, whose ability to prevent the gun from being held on them is treated as a minor inconvenience of, well, coalition politics.

Truth is that if Roe is reversed, politics in the states will revolve around abortion policies to an extent that is hard to imagine now, and even in many of the “liberal” states, clever restrictions and other harassments of women or of abortion or contraceptive providers will be devised. It will be Cold War 24-7, and it also won’t keep anti-choicers from continuing to press the constitutional argument (which two or three of the current Supreme Court Justices may already quietly accept) for banning abortion nationally and making every zygote a “person.”

Anyone, Democrat or Republican, who thinks reproductive rights as we understand them today is a trifle is in for a rude shock if we lose them.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.