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Rightward Turn By Supreme Court Will Greatly Affect Women

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Rightward Turn By Supreme Court Will Greatly Affect Women

Planned Parenthood rally, women protesters

A new right-wing justice won’t change the Supreme Court. The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch — and he is quite likely to be confirmed — won’t alter its makeup. A committed ultraconservative, Gorsuch would take the place of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was also a committed (and combative) ultraconservative.

Still, President Donald Trump is likely to get the chance to change the court — and to abolish Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized reproductive rights. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing voter who has kept Roe alive, is 80 years old. The reliably liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83 and ailing. And liberal Justice Steven Breyer is 78. Their ages alone suggest relatively short service ahead.

Even though Trump was once a libertine who proudly announced his support for reproductive freedoms, he campaigned as a social conservative who would allow his right-wing supporters, including Vice President Mike Pence, to dictate his policies on social issues. And anti-abortion forces have long clamored for the chance to reverse Roe.

Never mind that polls show most Americans would leave the law as it is. According to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Despite that, the anti-abortion crowd has grown more dogmatic and belligerent over the last several years. Across the country, Republican-led legislatures have already passed sharp restrictions on legal access to abortion, making it difficult in many places for women to receive the care they need. And, of course, the war on Planned Parenthood has picked up steam with Trump’s election.

That suggests that a Supreme Court moving dramatically rightward might go further than the old pre-Roe consensus, which allowed states to determine whether abortion would be legal. A Trump court could conceivably outlaw abortion altogether, which would take us into new political (and medical) terrain.

You doubt that would happen? Let’s hope you’re right. But the tides of ultraconservative authoritarianism are rising, and those high waters will change the landscape, especially for women.

This is a war on women, a battle against the modern mores that have given women control over their bodies, authority in the boardroom, agency in politics, and even command on the battlefield. While younger women have seemed curiously complacent about the hard-won rights that have allowed women to advance, a Trump Supreme Court may galvanize a new generation of feminists.

If you’ve been persuaded that the anti-abortion crowd is merely interested in saving the lives of the unborn, consider the intellectual incoherence that has always been apparent in the anti-abortion movement. While a few brave Catholic priests and nuns stand up for poor babies, the majority of anti-abortion voters detest food stamps, despise Medicaid, and fight housing subsidies for the poor. In other words, they oppose any and all government programs to support poor children once they are out of the womb. If they loved those babies so much, wouldn’t they want them to have decent housing and health care?

Those anti-abortion crusaders also show little enthusiasm for contraception, although broader contraceptive use is the best way to curb demand for abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for reproductive health, the abortion rate in 2014 was the lowest ever in the United States. (The rate of unplanned pregnancies also fell, according to research published in The New England Journal of Medicine.) Researchers speculate that more widespread contraceptive use contributed to the decline.

That makes sense. If women are better able to plan their pregnancies, the demand for abortions will certainly drop. In Western Europe, where contraceptives are cheaper and more accessible, abortion rates are much lower than here.

But if Roe is overturned, don’t expect ultraconservatives to stop there. Next, they will turn up the heat on birth control. They’ve already victimized Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of low-cost family planning services to poor women. They will be emboldened to go even further.

Modernity — and feminism — will eventually win out. But the battle will be long and ugly.

IMAGE: Activists hold signs as they rally in support of Planned Parenthood on “National Pink Out Day” on the steps of City Hall in Los Angeles, California September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Cynthia Tucker Haynes

Cynthia Tucker Haynes, a veteran newspaper journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, is a Visiting Professor of Journalism and Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Georgia. She is also a highly-regarded commentator on TV and radio news shows.

Haynes was editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper for 17 years, where she led the development of opinion policy. More recently, she was that newspaper’s Washington-based political columnist. She maintains a syndicated column through Universal Press Syndicate, which is published in dozens of newspapers around the country. Besides winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007, Haynes has also received numerous other awards, including Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists.

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  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth February 3, 2017

    This strata of thinking of conservative, ultra-conservative, liberal, moderate if allowed to work work in a vacuum w/o partisanship, favoritism with expectations from Special Interests, might work well. But judicial matters being as politicized as they are—due to differing and widely conflicting religious interpretations and opinions regarding life, the soul, and the afterlife among voters, jurists, legislators, and clerics—renders the Courts incapable of being impartial and objective. Having no clear guidance on the subject of abortion, what to do in the case of rape and incest, how to decide with unanimity how to evaluate situations where a young girl is forced to have intercourse with an adult male against her wishes, nor having any clear idea of the nature of the soul, its origin, the nature of its relationship with respect to the physical body, and no clear indication besides a hazy vision of the afterlife and the progress of the soul in such—all these factors and contingencies are totally beyond the comprehension of a great majority of Americans and others around the world. How to properly adjudicate cases of unwanted pregnancies or cases when pregnancies have to be aborted because of health concerns for the mother and the quality of the life a “damaged” fetus might have from the moment of birth, are questions beyond ordinary fair-minded jurists, much more so in the case of “conservatives” and “ultraconservatives”.

    Which I suppose is why the Universal House of Justice from its Seat on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel has yet to specifically legislate on the subject for now. Many of Baha’u’llah’s Writings, written originally in Arabic and Persian, have yet to be “officially” and properly translated—a very difficult task requiring expert language skill and the time by a committee of Arabic/Persian/English Baha’i Scholars.

    For now, the guidance is that “life” begins at the moment of conception— the decision is with the mother based on that fundamental understanding and the particulars on what action to take.

    1. dtgraham February 4, 2017

      Wheeeew, that’s a relief! I hope the Baha’u’llah right are a little more tolerant than the Christian right.

  2. dtgraham February 4, 2017

    LGBT rights will also probably suffer under Trump, and the newly configured Supreme Court with Gorsuch there will back him up. Ultra conservative numbers on the court will likely reach 6 or 7 before Trump’s Presidency is up.

    In a letter last year to Roman Catholics, Trump pledged, “I will defend your religious liberties and the right to fully and freely practice your religion, as individuals, business owners and academic institutions.” Those are code words for allowing discrimination. Warning on Thursday that religious freedom is “under threat”, he’s already vowing to repeal the IRS Johnson amendment which forbids churches from getting involved in political campaigns.

    The crazy thing is, that this is coming from a man who has clearly demonstrated an unfamiliarity with the Bible and has never shown any attachment at all to biblical ethics and morality in his life. In fact, he’s shown the opposite.

    I still can’t believe that Trump trashed his replacement on The Apprentice for not being as good as he is, and then wanted everyone to pray for the show’s ratings — at a prayer breakfast. A PRAYER BREAKFAST! I suppose at the next prayer breakfast Trump will ask everyone to pray for that loser Jesus who only had 12 followers while Trump has 2 million twitter followers.

  3. Thoughtopsy February 5, 2017

    Why is America doing stupid things like trying to Ban Abortions, when the majority does not want to go in that direction?
    Why aren’t there tighter gun laws when the majority wants that too?
    Why is Obamacare being repealed when the majority (70%-80% depending on which poll you believe) of Americans want to keep it?

    The answer seems to be money.
    If you have it (Corporate Businesses, Wall Street, Billionaires), the GOP and President F**kface Von Clownstick will do what you want.
    If you don’t (the People), they won’t.

    (The Democrats do a little of this “follow the money” as well… but actually have policies that the majority of American’s agree with: They want abortion legal, they want expanded background checks, they want regulation on Wall Street so they can’t crash the economy again… and they want the MONEY OUT OF POLITICS.
    But they didn’t get voted in. Hilarious)

  4. Mama Bear February 5, 2017

    If/when all these evil-gelicals get what they want…i.e. turning the clock back to the early 30’s there will be uprisings and revolts the likes of which have never been seen in the country….and I promise I will be leading the charge.

    1. dpaano February 6, 2017

      I’ll be right there with you!!!!

  5. Marlowe2011 February 5, 2017

    I haven’t figured why these limited government conservatives want to give the government the power to tell a women they can’t have an abortion when once they have the power a turn of the screw and the government can tell you you have to have an abortion.

    1. I Am Helpy February 5, 2017

      Because they’ve never given a fig about limited government – like “State’s rights”, it’s only ever been a smokescreen so they could discriminate against people.

  6. donna.rose February 6, 2017

    I’ve profited 104000 dollars in 2016 by freelancing from my house a­­n­­d I did it by wor­king in my own time f­o­r 3+ hours /daily. I’m using a business model I was introduced by this website i found on-line and I am so thrilled that i made so much money on the side. It’s so newbie-friendly and I am just so happy that I found out about it. This is what i did… http://statictab.com/5rq2qty

  7. FireBaron February 6, 2017

    Every person nominated as a Supreme Court Justice is asked the same question: “Do you believe in ‘stare decisis’?” They all say yes, but apparently that only counts for decisions that the Conservatives are in favor of.


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