The skids seem to be well-greased for Alito’s appointment to the Supreme Court, and (less certainly) for a reversal or drastic restriction of Roe v. Wade. Goethe famously warned “be careful what you wish for in youth, for you will certainly achieve it in old age” and the consequences for the right will be extremely interesting to watch. Analogic thought experiment: my other criminologist friend Mark (Moore, that is) once opined that a step forward in the Second Amendment wars might be to charter the NRA by act of Congress to issue permits for any weapon to any person it saw fit. When the first red-eyed lunatic came to the counter asking for a machine-gun license, and the NRA realized whose signature would be on it when he shot up a school, the tenor of the discussion might change a lot.
Reversing Roe v. Wade puts abortion into the hands of legislatures, and everything we know from polls shows that Americans do not want to go back to the coathanger era. Abortion has been useful for the Christian right as long as the speechifying and viewing with alarm didn’t put actual women at risk, but when candidates’ posturing moves into the reality zone, the mind goes into metaphor overload…millstone around neck, hoist with own petard, hooboy.
(1) Several readers point out that access to abortion has been nearly choked off in a couple of states already, and that we can expect much more of that without Roe v. Wade. They’re right, I didn’t mean either to minimize the practical importance of the Supreme Court holding nor to suggest anyone should think the political advantages of discomfiting the right wing would be without cost, or worth the cost. I don’t think Californians and New Yorkers will go back to the old rules, but several states may well enact flat prohibitions. Of course, it’s poor women who can’t afford to travel, not well-cared-for ladies on Desperate Housewives Lane and their daughters, who lose their real access to abortions when the screws are tightened, and everything–from the kind of tax cuts they like to the kind of programs they like to cut–indicates that Republicans are pretty much OK with harnessing the poor to tow their favorite abstractions up the hill.
Roe v. Wade saved two generations from oppression and fear and raised the proportion of their kids who were wanted and raised by loving parents. Reversing it will be a Really Bad Thing, even if it occasions a bracing cold shower of political reality for a lot of abortion opponents.
(2) I think but cannot prove that a fair amount of anti-abortion rhetoric is cant or cynical, but using the word posturing in the original post shouldn’t imply that I don’t recognize a sincere and reflective judgment on the part of some, even most, abortion foes that a fetus is a person and an abortion is a murder. This position is wrong in my view but not evil, morally corrupt, or intellectually impossible.