States Vie for Pro-Life Martyrdom in Effort to Capture SCOTUS Attention

States Vie for Pro-Life Martyrdom in Effort to Capture SCOTUS Attention

Over 45 years ago, on January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court handed down an unambiguous 7-2 decision in favor of a woman’s right to make conscious choices about her own body. In the landmark case of Roe vs. Wade, the majority opinion cited the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments, concluding that that the Constitution protects an individual’s “zones of privacy.” The Court found that this protected zone is “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

Case, quite literally, closed. Right? Wrong. Because as long as there are political movements led by men, women’s body parts and general freedoms will always be on the negotiating table – with, and most often without, our consent. Just a few years after the SCOTUS decision, writes Bennett Roth of Roll Call:

“By 1980, the ‘right-to-life’ movement was a key pillar of the conservative coalition that helped elect Ronald Reagan, an anti-abortion Republican president whose administration sought to impose restrictions on groups receiving family planning funds.”

On the road to victory, Reagan carried the Evangelical Christian agenda and moved it right into the White House. And as a country, we’ve had a hell of a time shaking its hold on our national politics. Consider these real headlines from the 2016 election cycle:

The Ultimate Pro-life Guide to the 2016 Republican Candidates

On Abortion, the GOP Presidential Candidates are Even More Extreme than Their Constituents

The Endangered Pro-Choice Republican

Yes, denying the individual liberty of over 50 percent of the American population has become entrenched as a core conservative litmus test. And for the single-issue voters who follow these misogynists (who are sadly, not universally male), apparently words are enough. For an extreme example of the hypocrisy, look no further than thrice-married Donald Trump, POTUS 45, and his self-styled saint of a Vice President, Mike Pence.

In 1999, Trump declared himself “very pro-choice.” One Electoral College-winning marriage of political convenience later, suddenly Pence finds the Pussy Grabber to be “the most pro-life president in American history.” Now I may be little better than a godless, European-style socialist, but I can’t remember a Commandment forbidding women from rendering their own family planning decisions. I do seem to recall something about God’s frown upon bearing false witness…

But for all the exhaustive work done by the religious right to turn Republicans into the party of female repression, let’s not overlook fake Libertarians like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. The very definition of the term “libertarianism” is: an extreme laissez-faire political philosophy advocating only minimal state intervention in the lives of citizens. That minimalist approach apparently ends at the vagina and uterus for he of the broken ribs.

As a matter of sad, frustrating fact, the male assault against women’s reproductive rights often knows no party. Newly minted Alabama Senator Doug Jones ran against the sickening Roy Moore as a pro-life Democrat. And far left standard-bearer, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has suggested that the liberal “tent” has room for pro-choice candidates. At this, I find myself in agreement with Erin Matson:

“Sanders has made it sound like reproductive rights are negotiable. That is wrong, and he will face protest until he includes reproductive justice in his economic justice message.”

Why am I bringing this up now? Because for all the threats presented to women’s health and corporeal freedom at the national level, the real dirty work in 2018 is being done in the states. And given that this is a midterm election year, that’s where true libertarian attention ought to be paid.

This week, staff writer Jessica Corbett of Common Dreams wrote an important piece entitled, As States Jockey for Most Egregious Attack on Abortion Rights, Warnings Grow Over Sinister Master Plan. In it, she suggests that the several states are engaged in a cynical contest to be the “chosen” one when and if SCOTUS decides to revisit Roe vs. Wade. Which one can pass a damaging enough law to get their name on the docket? She writes:

“[The] attempt to restrict access to the dilation and evacuation procedure in Kentucky came just a week after a federal judge temporarily blocked a Mississippi law that banned abortion after 15 weeks, days after Idaho and Indiana enacted laws requiring doctors to report abortion complications to state health officials, and as lawmakers in Ohio are considering legislation that would totally outlaw abortion across the state, without exceptions for rape, incest, and medical emergencies.”

Why else am I calling attention to the ongoing threat posed to women’s long-settled right to choose? Precisely because I’ve never had a child. I’ve never been to an abortion clinic. I’ve never been pregnant so haven’t had to make a decision that could be gut-wrenching and full of danger either way. Frankly speaking, I’m not hypothetically sure what I might do.

However, I am 100 percent, abundantly certain that the decision is personal. And that SCOTUS said as much nearly five decades ago. But because the discussion failed to end where it should in 1973, we must be vigilant. As I said in my opening, as long as there are political movements led by male ideologues, women’s bodies will always be considered public property.

Becky Sarwate

Becky Sarwate

Becky is an award-winning journalist, Op-Ed columnist and blogger. On March 29, 2018 her first book, Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team, will be published by Eckhartz Press. She is a proud Chicago resident, where Becky lives with her husband Bob. Check out her collected work at, and follow her on Twitter @BeckySarwate.