Let’s talk about the Supremely stupid decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and ways to lean in (in addition to protests, demonstrations, donations, and volunteer work) to avoid fleeing the country that seems to be leaning more and more into the Handmaid’s Tale timeline.
I’m talking specifically to my friends and the younger voters who, for years, have felt disenfranchised and like their vote doesn’t mean anything. I’m talking specifically to my friends in the LGBTQIA+ community who are scared that their rights are next on the chopping block.
There are so many of us who are fighting for you and won’t back down. I want to share with you what I’ve learned in my advocacy work on various issues so you can be effective in advocating for yourself. You’re not alone in this fight.
Go here and get to know these people: https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/
Aside from your City Council and County Commissioners, these are the 5 most important people who serve as defenders of your rights. Your Governor is also critical to preserving your rights. Your City Council (in Fort Collins at least) has a tremendous amount of authority and power as a home-rule municipality, so getting to know your Mayor and City Council is important as well. Your County officials can also lean in and assist on many, many issues.
The big thing to remember is that *each and every one* of these people are just that: people. They have a favorite ice cream. They had their awkward teenage phase. They have hobbies and interests and families and whatever else. Treat them accordingly – if they can connect with you, they can advocate for you. Be kind, be reasonable, be data-driven, and be respectful – but be human most of all.
Blindly writing letters or calling is… OK. It’s not as good as showing up to a town hall and speaking your mind directly to an elected official. It’s not as good as showing up to an election rally and meeting the candidate directly. Any opportunity you have to get in front of an elected official in person: take it. Speak up. They will listen. You will feel heard. (I fully realize as a straight cis white dude that my privilege makes this a TON less scary for me than it is for you, however, if you need and want help I will always stand by you while you learn to do this on your own).
Beyond that: show up anywhere you can, find candidates to support in those local positions who match your beliefs and needs, write letters, knock on doors, speak up on behalf of candidates who share your interests, and encourage your friends to get off their butts and vote. There are only 5-6 people you legit need to research (8 if we include City Council and 10 if we include County). That’s not a ton when there are 2-3 people in contention for each position.
Trust me when I tell you that *one* volunteer makes all the difference in local campaigns and your candidate having the energy and drive to keep going. I lost my City Council race by 34 votes, not for want of amazing volunteers – it was their support that kept me in the race when I hit the wall.
Don’t you dare tell me that your vote doesn’t matter.
OK, so back to Roe v. Wade and *why* it’s a stupidly short-sighted decision that’ll ultimately harm the very population that folks celebrating this decision are concerned about. Stick with me, this one is longer (and, no surprise: data-driven).
The long-term impact of restricting access to abortions, beyond the horrendous and dire health consequences imposed on the most vulnerable women in our communities, is simple: limiting access to abortions causes a direct increase in future crime, only able to be offset by massive investments in social services. Worse, the justification to overturn Roe because “due process of law” doesn’t specifically protect medical or bodily rights (and therefore States have the power to limit those rights) opens up the door to all sorts of dystopian-level nightmares for humans of every political leaning.
From Freakonomics.com – https://freakonomics.com/podcast/abortion-and-crime-revisited/: “Levitt and Donohue weighed in what they might expect to happen to crime if, or as, abortion becomes less accessible:
LEVITT: So if indeed these states are making abortions much harder to get, then our study, our hypothesis, unambiguously suggests that there will be an impact on crime in the future.
DONOHUE: You can imagine that if a state were to really clamp down on abortions but neighboring states permitted abortion, you would get some of this traveling to an abortion provider. But since that would tend to have a disproportionate effect on lower socioeconomic status, you might see exactly the problem that we have identified, that the children that are most at-risk, because they’re unwanted pregnancies, would be the ones most likely to be born once these restrictions are imposed.
LEVITT: And John Donohue and I estimate maybe that there are 5,000 or 10,000 fewer homicides because of [access to abortion]. So there are two policy domains for which this research is important. Let me start actually with the obvious one, which is crime. We spend enormous amounts of money on police and prisons and other programs. We incarcerate millions of people. And much of the justification for that comes from the idea that those are effective policies for reducing crime. So that’s actually the most obvious implication of our paper. That if it’s really true that most of the decline in crime is due to legalized abortion, then it brings real caution to the idea that a super-aggressive policing and incarceration policy is necessarily the right one to pursue.
But the second one really does relate to the idea that if unwantedness is such a powerful influencer on people’s lives, then we should try to do things to make sure that children are wanted. You could at least begin to think about how you would create a world in which kids grow up more loved and more appreciated and with brighter futures. And you know, is that better early education? Is that, you know, permits for parents? Or training for parents? Or, you know, minimum incomes? Who knows what the answer really would be. But there’s a whole set of topics I think which are not even on the table.”
There is a cost to these kinds of decisions that go far beyond a loss of bodily sovereignty.
From NYTimes.com – https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/12/14/upshot/who-gets-abortions-in-america.html – (citing research from the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group that supports abortion rights): “The typical abortion patient, in addition to having children, is poor; is unmarried and in her late 20s; has some college education; and is very early in pregnancy. Much of the political debate about abortion in America focuses on abortions performed late in pregnancy, but the overwhelming majority of them occur in the first trimester. Forty-three percent of all abortions occur in the first six weeks of pregnancy, and 92 percent in the first 13 weeks.
In 1973, the Roe decision provided a constitutional right to abortion before fetal viability, around 23 weeks. Without it, at least 22 states are likely to ban abortions altogether, or much earlier in pregnancy.
The Mississippi law before the Supreme Court concerns a ban on abortions after 15 weeks. In the 47 states with available data, about 21,500 women a year, accounting for 4 percent of American abortions, had the procedure after that time. The women who receive later abortions are more likely to be poor or young or to have serious health complications.”
According to a 2005 study from the Guttmacher Institute: “The decision to have an abortion is typically motivated by multiple, diverse and interrelated reasons. The themes of responsibility to others and resource limitations, such as financial constraints and lack of partner support, recurred throughout the study.” https://www.guttmacher.org/journals/psrh/2005/reasons-us-women-have-abortions-quantitative-and-qualitative-perspectives.
This was backed up by a 2017 study from 14 countries: “The authors examined reasons for abortion across countries, and within countries by women’s sociodemographic characteristics. They found that, in most countries, the most frequently cited reasons for having an abortion were socioeconomic concerns or a desire to limit childbearing. In six of the 13 countries for which there were data available on women’s primary reason for seeking an abortion, more than one-quarter of women cited socioeconomic reasons for having an abortion. In five countries, limiting childbearing was the most frequently reported primary reason.”
The folks cheering this cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face-style ruling need to be aware that unless they and their loved ones want to be the future victims of a significant annual uptick in violent crime (as in: 5,000-10,000 additional homicides a year), they need to get on board with the largely progressive request for a universal basic income, proactive sex education, eliminating the privatization of prisons, and so, so much more.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, the percentage of unmarried women in poverty is between 30-45% depending on race (exacerbated no doubt by COVID, this is 2018 data) and these women represent 56% of those in poverty: https://nwlc.org/resource/national-snapshot-poverty-among-women-families-2018/
Let’s look at the five most restrictive states (according to TheHill.com): Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Idaho, and Arkansas – of these states, many also rank among the worst in terms of access to contraceptives: Mississippi (38), Texas (36), Idaho (39), and Oklahoma (26): https://www.yourlawyer.com/library/best-and-worst-birth-control-access-across-america/
Mississippi (2), Arkansas (1), Oklahoma (4), and Texas (9) also historically rate among the highest teen pregnancy rates of any state: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/teen-births/teenbirths.htm
So the states that have the most to benefit from abortion access will also be the states that are hit the hardest by banning it, the states whose citizens are thrown into deeper and longer-lasting poverty, and whose states rank among the worst for child health care access: Texas (51*), Oklahoma (49), Arkansas (47), Mississippi (42) – https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-child-health/34455 *Texas is considered 51 because Puerto Rico was considered a state in this study.
And these states also rank poorly in Public Benefits Program spending per-capita: Mississippi (50), Arkansas (47), Oklahoma (35), Idaho (41), and Texas (40): https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/148/5/e2021050685/181348/State-Spending-on-Public-Benefit-Programs-and?autologincheck=redirected
The proportion of each state’s spending relative to Federal dollars also matters (e.g. how much each of us pays in via our Federal taxes vs how much each State’s residents pay in): Arkansas (35% state-funded), Mississippi (50% state-funded), Oklahoma (53% state-funded), Texas (58% state-funded), and Idaho didn’t participate. https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/State-and-local_SFY2018.pdf
It stands to reason that if a State isn’t willing to provide healthcare options provided in other states, if a State isn’t willing to foot the bills for that lack of care, and if a State isn’t providing access to post-partum care for children and families at commensurate levels, the States that *are* paying in and do have that access to care have a vested interest in making sure those other States do their part.
We’re not talking about FEMA or other kinds of emergency assistance – bad things happen and we’re right to share those costs, but limiting access to abortion without bolstering public benefit programs to offset the harm? That is a deliberate policy choice that generates inequity and externalities at an unprecedented pace and scale.
The ultimate goal should be a durable, inalienable right to bodily sovereignty which is enumerated in a constitutional amendment. Theoretically, that SHOULD have been Section 1 of the 14th amendment, written originally to secure rights and level the playing field for former slaves: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Because bodily sovereignty isn’t specifically enumerated here in terms of medical sovereignty, Justice Clarence Thomas indicated the next step is to take exception to anything previously justified under violations of “due process of law” (read: marriage and sex for homosexuals, access to birth control and contraceptives) is now suspect based on the reasoning used to overturn Roe v. Wade. https://www.npr.org/2022/06/24/1102305878/supreme-court-abortion-roe-v-wade-decision-overturn
Carrying Justice Clarence Thomas’s extrapolation to its natural end: if we’re looking at due process, then equal protections are also in question. This would include Brown v. Board of Education ensuring equal access for all to schools and the overturning of Oklahoma’s Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act of 1935 which *forced sterilization on repeat offenders of minor crimes*. For cheery bedtime reading: https://disabilityjustice.org/right-to-self-determination-freedom-from-involuntary-sterilization/#:~:text=Following%20Buck%20v.,reached%20the%20U.S.%20Supreme%20Court.
This is the same Oklahoma whose Governor also just penned the most restrictive abortion ban in the country: https://www.npr.org/2022/05/26/1101428347/oklahoma-governor-signs-the-nations-strictest-abortion-ban.
Also: thanks to the slapdash nature of some State laws written in gleeful anticipation of enforcing a religious moral code as widely as possible, care for women who’ve lost their pregnancy for reasons other than abortion could be considered illegal, same for some fertility treatments: https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2022/06/24/overturning-roe-v-wade-heres-how-it-could-impact-fertility-treatments-and-ivf/?sh=391803854be9
So, Justice Clarence Thomas should maybe consider politely taking a breath for a minute before wildly juggling the chainsaw of theoretical jurisprudence.
Folks of every political stripe can agree that bodily autonomy is probably a really good right to have, medical and otherwise, and regressively reinterpreting the 14th amendment poses atrocious implications to privacy and our basic human rights.
Cherry-picking the meaning of clauses using one set of criteria for people (14th amendment) and another for guns (2nd amendment) is, for lack of a better term, *sketchy* and indicates that the regressive thought process required for those Eval Knievel-esque logical leaps underpinning those decisions are dubious at best. Justice Alito in his 78-page walkabout opened the door wide open to a chapter that history textbooks will someday call, “Basic Human Rights in the US: LOL!”
That the Supreme Court can say “abortion notwithstanding” with regard to “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” and not conveniently ignore the “well regulated militia” clause re: concealed carry limitations as a requirement of the 2nd Amendment considering that what constitutes a well-regulated militia (e.g. what is now known as the National Guard) is outlined twice in the Constitution and utterly ignoring the never-ending cascades of death and blood on their own hands… fucking wild. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/danvergano/more-guns-more-crime
“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” wrote Justice Thomas. “*A well regulated Militia*, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” says the Constitution. A well regulated Militia with the goal of the security of a free State seems to be a special need litmus test written DIRECTLY INTO THE AMENDMENT.
States can apparently infringe on some rights (those regarding your bodily autonomy) but not on your right to bear arms under any circumstances whatsoever despite both the idea and the outcome being unfathomably stupid and out of context with what’s actually written in the constitution: more guns = more crime, more murder, worse outcomes and only 15% of “good guy with gun” ends with a good guy with a gun stopping the suspect https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/ and https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/06/22/us/shootings-police-response-uvalde-buffalo.html
It’s worth asking your Senators, Representative, and state house representative and state senator (to find yours go here: https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/) why guns have more autonomy than people based solely on what appears to be interpretational nitpicking.
For that matter, it’s probably worth asking how your representative plans to address the fact that the U.S. Constitution called for at least one Representative per every 30,000 persons, and because of a law passed in 1929, your representative now represents over 750K constituents, which is the weakest representation of any industrialized nation https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/05/31/u-s-population-keeps-growing-but-house-of-representatives-is-same-size-as-in-taft-era/
It’s worth asking why those other states aren’t paying their fair share while withholding healthcare options from their citizens.
If you feel your voice is not being heard, you’re right in feeling that it’s seriously diluted. A demand en masse to repeal the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 based on the idea of taxation without representation… that would yield some interesting results.
What can we do as individuals? Speak up, donate, march, obviously – but beyond that: make noise. Don’t just share good memes, but work to make your neighborhood and community kinder and more educated. Find a fact that you can change locally, cite your source, and share it relentlessly – go to City Council and speak up. Transcribe your comments and blog them. Host a podcast, call into radio shows, write blog posts – especially those tagging your local legislators that’ll show up in Google, can do a lot. Find candidates to support and support them. Create memes, post videos on TikTok.
Do things to coordinate and organize folks – but throughout it all: be kind and learn how to advocate for yourself. Ordinary citizens have an insane amount of power at the local and hyper-local level. Learn how to wield it for you and those that you love. Your future, their future – our future – depends on it.