Overturning Roe v. Wade Could Remake American PoliticsRoundup
tags: Supreme Court, SCOTUS, Roe v Wade, Trump
In his satirical 2004 American history textbook, comedian Jon Stewart joked that the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling had settled the abortion issue once and for all. “The Court rules that the right to privacy protects a woman’s decision to have an abortion and the fetus is not a person with constitutional rights, thus ending all debate on this once-controversial issue,” Stewart solemnly recounted, tongue firmly in cheek.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, in fact, unleashed massive protest and controversy across the United States, extending into the present day. And it profoundly altered our political landscape, providing a rallying cry and a lightning rod for social conservatives.
Now, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the bench has American conservatives chomping at the bit: with the swing vote removed and replaced with a nominee of President Trump’s choosing, perhaps the 1973 ruling can be overturned. Conservatives’ own history, however, suggests that they should be careful for what they wish for. Instead of an unambiguous and permanent conservative victory, they might face a liberal political resurgence unlike anything seen in decades. A victory in the courts could spawn backlash at the polls.
That, after all, is precisely what happened after 1973, with the roles reversed, when Roe galvanized a right-wing revolution. Sixteen states had liberalized their abortion laws in the years leading up to the decision, provoking sporadic conservative protests. But the issue didn’t become a truly national one until the Supreme Court intervened in 1973, declaring that the protections of the Constitution did not apply to the unborn.
“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins,” Roe v. Wade declared. “When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary . . . is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”
But millions of Americans were perfectly happy to provide their own reply: life begins at conception. Over the next few years, Roe brought millions of new voters to the polls—and into the Republican camp.
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