Thursday, September 8, 2022

Let Roe Go: Winning Abortion Rights

 Let Roe Go: Winning Abortion Rights

Jim Kavanagh

With Roe v. Wade overturned, and multiple states rushing to institute draconian abortion bans, the abortion-rights movement faces the task of winning—anew, but effectively for the first time—a right many of us mistakenly thought was secured. To do that requires, I think, recognizing and abandoning the diversionary legal-constitutional and partisan-political paths in which confidence was misplaced, and sharpening the tools needed for a strong and irreversible victory in the wider political sense. 

Judge Not

Of course, the abortion-rights battle must be waged on all fronts. But legal and legislative victories will only be won securely as a result of winning broad and deep political support—persuading a majority of people of the justice and necessity of the cause. That is the kind of political work that created the conditions for Roe v. Wade—independent, risky personal and collective political action, including civil disobedience, that highlighted the plight and right of pregnant women, and the hypocrisy and cruelty of criminalizing abortion.

Though it was, at the time, a punctual victory that resulted from such work, Roe also turned out to be Pyrrhic. Roe has arguably weakened the abortion-rights movement, which centered itself on defending the decision, searching for Supreme Court nominees who would support it, and engaging in partisan battles about it—at the expense of building wider and deeper popular support for the substantive right throughout the country.

Roe pre-empted an offensive strategy of growing a mass political movement for abortion rights, and channeled it into defensive, system-reaffirming, judicial and partisan “politics.” The abortion rights movement complacently placed its trust in an alliance with sympathetic magistrates and Democratic politicians and forewent the task of non-partisan persuasion—continually making its case and strengthening its support among masses of people whose support cannot be taken for granted or written off. While “pro-choice” liberals were playing with their RBG dolls, 15-year-old girls (and their parents) throughout the country were being talked to, and shown pictures of dead fetuses, by conservative pastors. Who’s approach was more effective?

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