Sunday, July 24, 2005

Is it time for Roe vs. Wade to go away?

Katha Pollitt takes on an idea that it might be best if Roe V. Wade was wiped off the books. The theory being that Roe was a "weak" ruling that is not that firmly grounded in the law, and that the court decision short-circuited the political process which had been trending toward expanded abortion rights. If Roe goes away, the theory goes, it will energize the pro-choice side and eventually lead to more firmly established privacy rights.

But, as Katha points out in Is it time for Roe vs. Wade to go away?:

A national consensus on abortion might or might not develop over time, but any such agreement would not likely be as permissive as Roe. Meanwhile—and possibly permanently—fortunate women in anti-choice states would fly to New York or Los Angeles or Chicago, and the less lucky—the poor, the young, the trapped—would have dangerous, illegal procedures or unwanted children. It would be a repeat of 1970-73, when women who could get to New York—but only they—could have a safe, legal version of the operation that was killing and maiming their poorer sisters back home.

The blatant class and racial unfairness of this disparity, in fact, was one of the arguments that pushed the court to declare abortion a constitutional right. If Roe goes, that same disparity will reappear, relabeled as local democracy.[...]

If Roe goes, whoever has political power will determine the most basic, intimate, life-changing and life-threatening decision women—and only women—confront. We will have a country in which the same legislature that can't prevent some clod from burning a flag will be able to force a woman to bear a child under whatever circumstances it sees fit. It is hard to imagine how that woman would be a free or equal citizen of our constitutional republic.

I have to admit that I did entertain the merits of this idea. But Katha's set me straight. The prospect of Roe's demise is, of course, very real. We may have to see if it energizes progressives and has a positive impact. But it does not change the fact that it will have a terrible impact on real people, especially the poor.

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