No Roe: Abortion could be legal in some states, murder in others

Less than 48 hours after the draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would scuttle Roe v. Wade was leaked in the press, the Louisiana legislature moved a bill out of committee that criminalizes any abortion, from the moment of conception, as a homicide, allowing women who have such a procedure, or anyone who performs one or aids in its achievement, to be charged with murder.

Meanwhile, at the same time, states like Illinois — and California, and New York — rush to guarantee the right of women to control their own bodies, and certain companies, like Levi Strauss, Yelp and Uber, announce they will pay for female employees to go out of state to have an abortion — raising the specter of a nation where a citizen doing something in one state can get reimbursed by her boss, while doing the exact same thing in another state lands her in prison.

How is that going to work?

Those squashing abortion don’t care. Religious fanaticism and forethought do not go hand in hand. If you set your daughter on fire because she is dating a boy, and thus has shamed you, in your estimation, then you probably didn’t deeply consider that you won’t have a daughter anymore and might be casting an even greater shame on your family.

Ditto for political fanaticism. If you bar immigrants because you are terrified at the thought of Brown folks rubbing elbows with you in a diverse America, then the strawberries rot in the field, because we actually need immigrants to make the economy work — to be surgeons as well as pick fruit, I must point out — now more than ever, since COVID seems to have reduced Americans’ ability to tolerate employment.

Among their many vital roles, women are a key part of the workforce. America not only wants legal abortion, it needs it. If women are forced to bear children every time they get pregnant — and they’ll get pregnant more, since the American Taliban are coming for contraception too — they are removed from the workforce, their incomes slashed while household expenses soar.

Abortion rights activists chant as they march during in the Loop on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

Abortion rights activists chant as they march during in the Loop on Saturday.

Is it not society’s obligation to, for instance, pay for maternity leave for mothers of those legally-mandated children? To pay for child care? Red staters of course never consider actual living children — the babies are an abstraction, a metaphor. This is all about forcing your religion upon the unwilling (I sometimes see this expressed as imposing “religious beliefs” on others. But beliefs aren’t forced, only practices are).

Fantasy makes bad policy. Just as the getting-the-drop-on-the-bad-guy pipe dream leads to thousands of gun owner suicides and accidental deaths, so the I-didn’t-abort-my-child-and-now-he’s-Justin-Bieber trope obscures the difficulty of raising a baby that Mitch McConnell forced you to have. We live in a nation where over 100,000 people die of drug overdoses each year. It’s hard enough to be a good parent when you want your kids.

If abortion is murder, then every teenage girl who goes out of town to cheerleading camp for three days is suddenly a homicide suspect.

Up to 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. God is the busiest abortionist. If abortion is murder, then suddenly the state has an interest in what is happening under every woman’s skirt, and has a right to take a look. Just to check: God’s will, or homicide?

That’s isn’t freedom. Far from it.

Seeing the freedom of American citizens so dependent on what state they live in struck me, for a moment, as something new in American history. But of course it’s not. Drug arrests that were waved off in Washington State would have you breaking rocks on a chain gang in Mississippi. I’m sure you can look back even further in the past and find other examples.

I don’t like to catastrophize. But a nation where some states are lurching back toward the 19th century, while others live in the 21st, or try to, seems a recipe for disaster. Deeper disaster, since we are already in mid-calamity with no relief in sight. I like to think that, to paraphrase the movie, all they have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill it with a terrible resolve. But that giant has been sawing lumber for a long time now, and the resolve seems limited to waving signs in the street. That won’t be enough.

Thousands of abortion-rights supporters rallied and marched in the Loop on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

Thousands of abortion-rights supporters rallied and marched in the Loop on Saturday to protest a leaked Supreme Court opinion indicating the court appears ready to overturn the nearly 50-year-old decision in Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion.

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