The leaked draft of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has, since its publication in early May, stirred a firestorm over the fate of abortion rights in the United States. As Americans reckon with the impending US Supreme Court decision – expected later this month – that could undo nearly 50 years of precedent, CNN Opinion has published commentary from an array of writers on abortion and the most anticipated legal opinion in decades. From the personal to the political, their perspectives reveal the role that access to abortion has played across history or in their own lives – and convey what the court’s decision could mean for the country at large. The opinions expressed in these commentaries are their own.
Mary Ziegler: How abortion became a war over geography
The Supreme Court seems ready to undo Roe v. Wade, the landmark case recognizing the right to choose abortion, in a matter of weeks, and blue as well as red states are already preparing for what might be coming next: a conflict between states seeking to facilitate out-of-state travel for abortion and those trying to shut it down.
Strikingly, however, this brewing interstate war would be something relatively new. What has changed to make interstate conflict a possible new front in the abortion wars, and what does it mean for a post-Roe America? Read more.
Mary Ziegler is the author of “Abortion and the Law in America: Roe v. Wade to the Present” and the forthcoming book “Dollars for Life: The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Fall of the Republican Establishment.”
Charlie Dent: I was caught in the uncomfortable middle of the abortion battle
As one of the last two House Republicans who voted in support of women’s reproductive rights, I have a nuanced perspective on abortion.
During my time in Congress, I voted against defunding Planned Parenthood and against the 20-week abortion ban. That pleased pro-choice advocates. But parts of my voting record pleased pro-life advocates, too.
For instance, I voted for the long-established Hyde Amendment wording contained in federal spending bills. This language prohibits federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest and life or health of the mother. Read more.
Charlie Dent is a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who served as chair of the House Ethics Committee from 2015 until 2017 and chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies from 2015 until 2018. He is a CNN political commentator.
Laura Beers: If I’d lived in a post-Roe world, my son might not be here
Since the moment of his birth, my 5-year-old son has been a near unalloyed joy, but the long journey to that moment was anything but joyous. My husband and I started trying for a child in 2013, and I quickly became pregnant. At 10 weeks, I had an unexplained miscarriage. I was rushed to the emergency room where I ultimately had a dilation and curettage, or D&C, to clear my womb of the self-aborted pregnancy.
It took us over a year of trying before I became pregnant again. This time, I made it to the sonogram at the end of my first trimester, when doctors told us our baby had a condition that meant that he would likely die in utero. If he survived, he would only live for at most a few years, in a life spent in and out of the hospital. Ultimately, after extended soul-searching, I decided to abort the pregnancy, for the sake of both my existing family and my unborn son, a heart-wrenching decision I have written about elsewhere.
In the painful aftermath of these two losses, we turned toward in vitro fertilization, in the hopes that IVF would finally give us the baby we both longed for. We were extremely fortunate that I became pregnant following our first IVF attempt. Read more.
Laura Beers is a professor of history at American University. She is the author of “Your Britain: Media and the Making of the Labour Party” and “Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson, Socialist, Feminist, Internationalist.”
Alice Stewart: Conservatives held our noses and voted for Trump. Reversing Roe would be our reward
People like me who voted for Trump, in the belief that the Supreme Court ought to be our highest priority, should feel vindicated…
Donald Trump said and did a lot of things I didn’t agree with, but I voted for him to be my president, not my pastor. As far as I am concerned, politics is about policy, not personality.
I am unapologetic about supporting a pro-life candidate who talked the talk, and walked the walk. For conservatives like me, this impending Supreme Court ruling on Roe underscores the wisdom of that decision. Read more.
Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator and board member at the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics at Harvard University.
Gina Glantz: This could be a game changer in the November elections
The challenge for Democrats is to capture the current emotion and turn it into organizing against candidates who favor overturning Roe.
This is not as difficult a challenge as it might seem. The simple task of asking every candidate for public office if they support the overturning of Roe would be a good place to start. Answers in print, on audio and/or video can be shared locally and used by ad makers to plant seeds of distrust and discomfort among women and younger voters who will hold the key to the 2022 midterms and beyond. Read more.
Gina Glantz, a long-term Democratic political operative, served as chair of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund from 2011 to 2016 and is the founder of GenderAvenger, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring women are part of the public dialogue.
Nicole Hemmer: There is perhaps no greater farce than Alito’s appeal to democracy
He (Alito) maintains voters, not courts, should decide whether abortion is legal. Overturning Roe, he argues, in fact empowers women, because it “allows women on both sides of the abortion issue to seek to affect the legislative process by influencing public opinion, lobbying legislators, voting, and running for office.”
Except the very court he sits on has restricted those rights: deciding a presidential election by stopping the 2000 recount (Bush v. Gore), diluting voters’ lobbying power by allowing unlimited and anonymous campaign spending (Citizens United v. FEC) and gutting the Voting Rights Act (Shelby County v. Holder). As a result of all this, the current court will allow a state to restrict access to both abortion and the ballot box. The escape hatch Alito offers opens on a brick wall. Read more.
Nicole Hemmer is an associate research scholar at Columbia University with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project and the author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics” and the forthcoming “Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s.” She cohosts the history podcasts “Past Present” and “This Day in Esoteric Political History.”
Matt Villano: Thank goodness I had the choice to be a dad
I became a father at age 34, the culmination of a lifelong dream to become a dad. But I could have become a father at age 19 – and that would have been one of the worst mistakes of my life….
We went to Planned Parenthood. Only my best friend knew. I had money from a job at a fast-food restaurant and I paid. I stood in the waiting room – the seats were full of brown and Black and White faces from all over the city. I read People magazine while we waited. She was crying when she went in. One hour felt like 10. She was stoic when she came out….
Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to raise a baby while attending university. Sometimes I wonder what she’s doing now, if she’s OK, how she remembers it all. For years I felt guilty for putting this woman in the worst possible situation imaginable. Mostly I just think: THANK GOODNESS. Thank goodness she had a choice.
Thank goodness we did not become parents before we could legally drink. Read more.
Peniel E. Joseph: The Supreme Court is about to take a huge step away from racial justice
For Black women living in the South, the birthplace of racial slavery and its afterlife that produced health disparities and racist practices such as forced sterilization, the effects of a post-Roe America promise to be particularly acute.
Historically, Black women have lacked access to humane and decent health care. This continues in the present, where even upper-middle-class Black women suffer worse maternal health outcomes than their White economic peers. Why does this happen even in the 21st century?
The answer lies in the systemic racism that pervades every aspect of America’s institutions, especially health care. Read more.
Peniel E. Joseph is the Barbara Jordan Chair in ethics and political values and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor of history. He is the author of the forthcoming book “The Third Reconstruction: America’s Struggle for Racial Justice in the Twenty-First Century,” in addition to “Stokely: A Life” and “The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.”
Paula Ávila-Guillén: For Latin Americans, Roe v. Wade is a fight we’ve been preparing for our whole lives
American citizens who believe in the right to legal abortion can still push back against the Supreme Court’s impending ruling — in fact, we need everybody who cares about human and civil rights and bodily autonomy to get involved.
Abortion funds and states codifying Roe v. Wade are undeniably crucial to the survival of so many, but they can only do so much. Voter participation will be critical, but we need to learn from Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and elsewhere to pressure our elected officials to protect our health and our humanity.
Seeing abortion become legal in Latin American countries is something we once thought impossible. As we gear up for the fight we now have in store in the US, we bring the learnings from our home countries, and our signature color green, to the country we today call home. Read more.
Paula Ávila-Guillén is a Colombian human rights lawyer, sexual and reproductive rights activist and executive director of the Women’s Equality Center, an organization devoted to supporting and elevating the work of people and organizations in Latin America focused on reproductive freedom.
Franchetta Groves: A lot of young women worry about the end of Roe. I would celebrate it
I believe that abortion harms women. It allows men to get off consequence-free after having fathered a child and avoid the responsibilities of fatherhood. It undermines the beauty of motherhood and tells women that their children are a hindrance to their dreams and that life is not a blessing.
After Roe, I believe it will be possible for our nation to be one that doesn’t cast judgment on women who become pregnant, but one that embraces them with love and compassion. And it must also be one that always protects human life and appreciates the intrinsic value of each being from the moment of conception.
Over the decades, this debate has been characterized by hostility and villainization on both the abortion-rights and anti-abortion sides. Only honest dialogue can help heal a fractured culture that has so painfully betrayed women. We’ll need that dialogue once Roe is gone, and the national conversation turns to how we can support those facing crisis pregnancies and their children. Read more.
Franchetta Groves is a senior at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She is marketing chair of the Network of Enlightened Women, a national organization of conservative college students and a participant in a fellowship program that the group runs.
Joshua Prager: The groundbreaking and complicated life of Mildred Fay Jefferson
That illegalizing abortion will deepen racial inequities is an uncomfortable reality for those who propose doing so. It is no surprise then that, in the run-up to the upcoming Supreme Court decision on abortion, leading pro-life organizations have testified to their own diversity. Those testimonies invariably invoke the same woman: Mildred Fay Jefferson, a pro-life leader and the first Black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School. In the last few months, the National Right to Life Committee honored her, the head of the Susan B. Anthony List wrote of her in an opinion piece and Americans United for Life published a guide to pro-life legislation under an imprint it named for her: Mildred Press.
That Jefferson remains, more than a decade after her 2010 death, a pro-life hero is no surprise. A Black Methodist woman, she embodied the aspirations of a movement that, upon her election in 1975 as president of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), was composed almost entirely of White Catholic men. Read more.
Joshua Prager is a former senior writer for The Wall Street Journal and the author of “The Echoing Green” and, with Milton Glaser, “100 Years.” His newest book, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is “The Family Roe: An American Story.” (W.W. Norton).
Holly Thomas: With ‘fetal personhood,’ a miscarriage can lead to a prison sentence
If Roe is overturned, a number of states have trigger laws in place that will almost immediately make abortion illegal. The broad drafting of some abortion trigger laws defines the start of pregnancy as the moment of fertilization, thereby encompassing not only fetuses but also embryos and even fertilized eggs. This degree of protection, persistently advocated for by the personhood movement, creates a legal quagmire with potentially terrifying ramifications.
Criminalizing abortion opens the door for people to be charged with murder or manslaughter for miscarriages over which they have no control. Since Roe, there have been hundreds of instances in which a woman’s pregnancy has been a decisive factor in attempted and actual deprivations of her physical liberty.
Court cases of past years offer a glimpse of how vulnerable pregnant people are to legal action. Read more. Read more.
Holly Thomas is a writer and editor based in London. She is morning editor at Katie Couric Media. She tweets @HolstaT.