The Destruction of Roe vs Wade has been Decades in Making


In the past, abortion has largely been ignored by presidential candidates in favor of other issues. In 2016, despite strong statements on reproductive choice being important to many of the Democratic Party’s voters, abortion was still a frequently overlooked topic. Because of the lack of attention, activists have campaigned for years to get politicians to even bring up abortion in speeches.

 President Trump did so only 200 days into his presidency. But as always, the political winds are shifting. Abortion rights supporters see 2020 as the year that they can reclaim the issue in national politics. As the issue gains significant attention in 2020 due in no small part to Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 2018, which gave Republicans a stronger hand in judicial battles activists say it can be one of the essential issues in this fall’s elections. 


Abortion opponents, though, say they’ll be able to fight back with the kinds of ideas they’ve been trying to promote for decades that they talk about abortion more than their opponents. And as Democrats increasingly embrace a faction of abortion rights opponents, like Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Kamala D. Harris of California, that faction is more likely to become even more active. Though the conversation around abortion has changed dramatically, advocates say that activists are beginning to win more of the battles that begin on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. Other candidates were quick to condemn their ally’s comments and pledge that their positions would remain the same. 


Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, said that Judge Kavanaugh’s answer was an “insult.” “The Supreme Court must defend a woman’s right to control her own body. This campaign is just beginning, and we are going to shock the people awake,” Mr. Sanders said. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, said it was “disturbing” that Judge Kavanaugh had not come out stronger against Republican efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. 


The political narrative that abortion is “really complicated” and “a matter for states to decide” is convenient for Republicans, who have taken advantage of this vacuum to win elections by deploying anti-abortion wedge issues. This control over abortion policy means that many politicians are able to hide behind meaningless platitudes about protecting women’s health—while passing laws that threaten women’s health and well-being.


In a stunning and infuriating victory for pro-life advocates, the US Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which effectively removed abortion from the federal judicial code. Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to have an abortion, and the removal of this decision will lead to an outright ban on abortion.


No other medical procedure “enjoys” the kind of political polarization that abortion does. Though the procedure has been legal in America for the past four decades, the legality of abortion continues to be a bitterly disputed issue, with Republicans overwhelmingly against it and Democrats overwhelmingly for it. In 2016, more than 50% of the Republicans running for President vowed to defund it if elected. As abortion restrictions have mounted, clinics have shuttered. This year, 20 % of American counties won’t have a single clinic.


For decades, Abortion has increasingly become a right that only the privileged individual can access. And while there is a degree of misogynistic shame and social pressure to consider, the demographics that have the greatest chance of accessing safe abortion treatments are also the least likely to vocally stand up with pro-choice activists. There was a “failure to see that we all haven’t made it,” Goodwin said. “And when we all haven’t made it, the overall rights become vulnerable.” 

Yet even in those circumstances, abortion was often perceived as a social issue which could be removed from discussions about the “real” economic issues facing the American people. Every now and then, abortion just didn’t get talked about at all. In 2016, activist Renee Bracey Sherman started the hashtag #AskAboutAbortion, asking people around the world to share their abortion stories.

But this too has been happening in media. Discouraged by seemingly permanent anti-choice majorities in legislatures and courts, the media’s coverage of reproductive rights has been largely siloed. Stories on abortion rights generally rested within women’s interest publications and were often written by a single reporter. Mainstream news outlets almost never dedicated a single reporter to the issue. And even those diligent independent reporters at outlets like Jezebel struggled to consistently generate interest and readership from readers outside a brief flurry of activity around specific bans.

Forty million women of reproductive age live in states that are likely to ban abortion when Roe is overturned. These states generally have the highest overall poverty rates, which means the most affected will be the people who lack the money or other resources to travel out of those states to get the procedure. Their lives depend on being able to get abortions, but they are often unable to afford it. Those most likely to lack the necessary resources for a cross-country drive will be low-income Americans, especially Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color.

With the exception of criminal defense attorneys, few people look forward to going to work in the morning. For minor offenses, national standards for law and order allow an officer to issue a citation or warning. Yet, despite this framework, state actors have been brazen enough in recent years to impose severe penalties on individuals for conduct that they falsely label with criminality.



As our chief editor and senior journalist, Pun Sing Yu is an unquestionably important member of the Red Spectacle team. She has a knack for writing articles related to Global Feminism and other Social Theories.

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