There’s a plethora of very good articles being written these days about how the Supreme Court is slithering closer and closer to not just further restriction on abortion rights but an outright ban on the procedure in toto. Several I found most impressive included Jeannie Suk Gersen’s column on the so-called “fetal personhood” argument and author Adam Cohen’s dismantling of Justice Clarence Thomas’ citation of his monograph on eugenics as part of the anti-choice legal argument (see also Cohen’s follow-up interview on Democracy Now! here.)
However, these outlets are missing out on the grand strategy that is playing out right now, a pathway that is opposed by far more Americans than the number that opposes choice. There’s no denying that abortion is an emotional, fraught conversation for everyone involved regardless of where one stands on the issue. But what is also certain is that the majority of those people also have at the very least a clear and indisputable approval for contraceptives and would oppose criminal prosecution of those who distribute or obtain contraceptives. A 2016 Gallup poll shows that Protestantism is the majority orientation of believers in the United States at 48.9%, with Catholicism in second at 23%. Until fairly recently, when right wingers in both groups made a devil’s bargain to create the voting bloc that has underwritten conservative Republican Party political success since Ronald Reagan ran for president, those two groups hated each other. Catholics damned Prods for their blasphemous rejection of the Virgin Mary and the Throne of Peter. Meanwhile, Protestants loathed the Papists who seemed to breed like rabbits, wallow in their own drunken filth, and swore allegiance to a monarchy in Rome. (The fact my mother is Catholic and my father is Lutheran is an irony that is not lost upon me…)
But when they realized they shared one thing in common, suburban whiteness, and felt that it was threatened by hippies, queers, women, and Blacks that refused to sit at the back of the bus, they let bygones be bygones and formulated principles of unity that included making their voices heard in the ballot box.
Thus were born the Culture Wars, that diabolical Popular Front which gave us three generations of lunatic Republicans.
Remembering the talking points of the Religious Right in the 1980s is darkly ironic. The standard ranting agenda was against abortion, homosexuals, Communists, and feminists, which always seem to be one amorphous blob once the fever dreams got to their most lurid point. When interrogated, however, the agenda reveals itself. Furthermore, the press outlets of these various denominations are sometimes very adamant about their goals.
- Reverse Roe and outlaw abortion totally.
This is not a big lift despite the fact the majority of the country is pro-choice. Liberals have been lazy for the past few decades while the conservatives and their network of think tanks, professional associations, media outlets, and churches have waged a full-on kulturkampf. The Reagan coalition effectively now controls all three branches of government and multiple states.
- Outlaw sodomy
Even though the Supreme Court ruled just a few years ago on same sex marriage, that was on the basis of a reliable slim majority that no longer exists. Now that majority is gone and its decisions are able to reversed overnight if such would be desired. The fact is that the minority on the Court that opposed ending sodomy laws with the 2003 Lawrence v Texas decision was as caustic as it was militant, refusing to cede any kind of middle ground on the issue. Those dissenting opinions are easily called upon to change the law, much like Justice Thomas seems now to be inclined towards with his references to eugenics within the context of abortion.
- Ban contraception
It might sound crazy but in fact once upon a time in the twentieth century the procurement and provision of contraceptives was a crime punishable by a variety of charges. Condoms were part of a grey market whose existence was tabooed by the Comstock Law. It was the 1965 Griswold v Connecticut decision that changed these conditions while providing the legal groundwork, based in the legal protection of privacy, that the Court later utilized in authoring the Roe decision. In other words, reversal of Roe would be an assault not only on a particular medical procedure, it would be a broad attack on privacy itself. Furthermore, the anti-choice movement is not exactly mute on this. For years they have been saying that the birth control pill is an abortifacient, which is both insane and factually incorrect. Here is just one example of this lunacy from a Texas anti-choice website:
Did you know that some forms of contraception – namely, hormonal birth control – can cause a woman’s body to reject the newly-formed Life of a baby and expel him or her without the mother ever knowing she was pregnant? And did you also know that the major medical associations were complicit in duping the public into believing that this was not the case when hormonal contraception gained popularity?
The pro choice Guttmacher Institute has even issued a seven page policy briefing article on this topic that is important reading. The extremism of the anti choice movement is real and it is immense.
Make no mistake, what is at hand here is a kind of political project that has no middle ground and intends to return us to the medieval period. Whether Brett Kavanaugh, successor/heir of his reliably pro-choice mentor Justice Anthony Kennedy, will buck expectations of both the right and left is anyone’s guess.