Following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, CNN Opinion asked a group of contributors to weigh in on the cultural, legal and political ramifications of this monumental legal opinion undoing nearly 50 years of federal abortion protection. The views expressed in these commentaries are those of the authors.
SE Cupp: What politicians get wrong about the abortion debate
I’m deeply worried for our country.
No matter where you stand on the issue – I’m pro-life but do not support a ban on abortions – this ruling represents a seismic shift in American life as most of us knew it.
I’m 43, and Roe is older than I am. There are more people alive today who have never known an America without Roe than there are people who lived without it.
Stripping away what many women have only known as a right for nearly 50 years, without putting anything in its place is dangerous. Criminalizing a medical procedure and unleashing a hoard of police and prosecutors to round up women and doctors and Uber drivers is draconian. Forcing a woman to choose between jail and carrying her rapist’s baby is uncivilized and medieval.
Politics – and if I’m being honest, cable news at times – has incorrectly framed the abortion debate for decades. You’d likely believe the country is made up of people who want abortion banned and criminalized and people who want abortion with no restrictions. That’s simply false. The majority of Americans are in the middle – we support abortion in some but not all circumstances.
The overturning of Roe serves a narrow minority of Americans at the expense of the majority. It’s regressive, impractical and puritanical. And let’s not forget, entirely political.
You don’t have to be an abortion advocate to think this is a lamentable ruling, a sad day for women – and a worrisome time for our country.
SE Cupp is a CNN political commentator.
Erika Bachiochi: Our feminist foremothers would be proud of this decision
Much of the mainstream media’s response to the Dobbs decision has been to overwhelmingly condemn what it takes to be, according to the dissent, “the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.” The now-repudiated constitutional right to abortion has been, after all, the cornerstone of feminist protest for more than a half century.
But this limited understanding of history ignores entirely the ardently pro-life position of the American women’s movement at its origins. The women, like Matilda Gage and Victoria Woodhull, who fought for rights within marriage, to property, contract, education and the vote were, without known exception, against abortion. Condemning the practice in the strongest possible terms, they saw it as the human rights violation that it is.
These women, who had been treated as property themselves, knew they could not treat their unborn children that way – to dispose of as they saw fit. Rather, they rightly understood themselves to be mothers, with all the responsibilities of motherhood, not when their children were born, but when they were first developing in their mothers’ wombs.
These courageous and pioneering women thus worked for a society that would be hospitable to the vulnerable and dependent – and to those who care for them.
Roe and Casey forestalled progress toward this goal by capitulating to the need for autonomous and unencumbered workers in the capitalistic market. In reinstating the state’s authority to protect human beings at every stage of dependency, the Dobbs court has opened the pathways again.
Would that all who ardently work for the good of women and children everywhere come together to push ahead the vision of our feminist foremothers: toward the creation of a society that welcomes all children – and is deeply hospitable to the mothers and fathers who care for them.
Erika Bachiochi is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of “The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision.” She co-authored an amicus brief filed by a number of scholars, professionals and pro-life organizations in support of the state of Mississippi in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Leah Litman: Reversing Dobbs could take decades
The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will have profound and generational consequences on Americans’ lives. It is also a capstone to the decades-long campaign led by the Republican Party to control the Supreme Court. Democrats need to understand that reversing Dobbs may take a similarly long time, and they need to understand the work that will be required to accomplish it.
Well before former President Donald Trump, Republican presidential hopefuls were promising to appoint justices to the United States Supreme Court who would overrule Roe v. Wade. Less publicly, but no less importantly, the conservative legal movement was working to create networks and opportunities for lawyers who would do away with the right to an abortion.
They developed conferences, awards and speaking engagements to credential and advance a generation of lawyers who would take the bench and advance the Republican Party’s vision for the United States. And they helped those lawyers get clerkships with judges and jobs in both state and federal governments – and more.
Dobbs represents the culmination of that campaign. The current and future generations of the Democratic Party should understand the kind of work – and the kind of ruthlessness – that went into the Republican Party’s successful takeover of the Supreme Court. And more than anything, the Democratic Party should center the courts in their movement.
Democratic organizers and voters need to go to the polls and call their representatives to ensure that Democrats are filling all of the open judicial vacancies with judges who are committed to protecting our democratic rights. And Democratic leaders need to cultivate and build networks for advancing young progressive lawyers rather than leaving progressives to make it on their own.
Leah Litman is an assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan and co-host of the Crooked Media podcast Strict Scrutiny. She is one of a number of constitutional law scholars who filed an amicus brief in support of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Ashley Allison: It didn’t make sense in 1952, and it certainly doesn’t make sense now
When I was 14 years old, I watched “If These Walls Could Talk.” The film’s most heartbreaking scene, set in 1952, depicts Demi Moore’s character attempting to self-abort with a knitting needle. Her attempt fails, and she later tries again – eventually bleeding to death. I remember thinking that it made no sense that women were placed in such precarious situations – ones where their responses were accompanied by so much risk and shame.
It didn’t make sense in 1952, and it certainly doesn’t make sense now. But let’s be clear that this is not a movie – the banning of abortion in much of America is our new reality. The Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing states to restrict abortion access all together, is an incomprehensible setback in our country’s progress.
As a Black American woman of child-bearing age who believes in freedom of choice, I shudder at the prospect of this new political reality. But to make matters worse, the court, as Justice Clarence Thomas argued, has opened the door to overturning other fundamental rights – from marriage equality to contraception access.
The Supreme Court’s overreach and its overturning of precedent reflects a patriarchal view of the world – one which seeks to control women’s bodies. But let me say this loudly and clearly: We will not go back to 1952 or even 1992, because we are in 2022 – and it is my body and my choice.
Ashley Allison is the CEO of Turner Conoly Group and a consultant for Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She is a former senior adviser to former President Barack Obama and senior aide to the Biden-Harris campaign.
Timothy Stanley: Religious conservatives will be thanking God and Trump
The Supreme Court’s decision is a triumph for religious conservatives. They will be thanking God for this outcome, along with former President Donald Trump.
Plenty of non-religious Americans are anti-abortion, of course, but since the 1970s, the anti-abortion campaign has become the motor of religious political activism in America, a unifying theme and a litmus test for Republican candidates.
It was central to the development of a Catholic “seamless garment” ethic, which provided the church’s response to the moral revolutions of the 1960s, knitting together opposition to abortion, the death penalty and social injustice. And it bridged a sectarian divide with evangelicals: the fight against Roe v. Wade unified people who, not that long ago, believed their allies were going to hell.
Conservatives often complain that the left has hijacked American institutions by infiltrating their personnel and ideas into influential positions – but that’s exactly what the right has done by capturing the GOP and then using that power to appoint conservative judges, many of them religious themselves.
It is one of the great ironies of history that it took Trump – a president with scant interest in religion who was criticized by the Pope – to nominate the three critical judges, all of them either practicing Catholics or raised that way, who would give the anti-abortion movement its greatest ever win. It gives him an ever-stronger claim to the 2024 Republican nomination. Trump has earned it.
This is not the end of the fight: The decision does not ban all abortions automatically but sends the matter back to the states, where advocates will have to argue for or against it, and citizens will have to vote their conscience. I have worked and prayed for this outcome for a decade, but I’m braced for a thousand new battles.
Timothy Stanley is a columnist for the London Daily Telegraph and author of several books on US history. His latest book is “Whatever Happened to Tradition? History, Belonging and the Future of the West.”
Kate Manne: This is a new level of misogyny
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe and Casey is a devastating step back for the rights of girls, women and others who can get pregnant in America today. It’s important to recognize that this attack on reproductive rights has been ramping up for decades – with clinics being overregulated and forced to close, the imposition of mandatory waiting periods and so-called heartbeat laws that ban abortion as early as six weeks, when most women don’t even know they’re pregnant. But this is, to be sure, a new level of misogyny.
Misogyny describes social systems in which girls and women face hostile social forces which function to police and enforce a patriarchal order. Among the central norms and expectations therein is that women are to bear, birth and care for children regardless of our own wishes.
Make no mistake that this is about the misogynistic social control of girls and women – not protecting the life of the fetus. After all, anti-abortion activists show little to no interest in improving maternal mortality rates, fighting childhood hunger, securing clean water for communities, protecting Black lives or regulating guns, as Thursday’s Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen painfully highlights.
This misogyny will cost the life, health and freedoms of millions in this country when implemented. And it will add to the pernicious, false sense that women are morally obligated to give up our bodies – even our very lives – in service of the patriarchy.
Kate Manne is an associate professor of philosophy at Cornell University. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic and The Nation. She is the author of “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny” (Oxford University Press, 2017) and “Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women” (Crown, 2020). She has recently written about her own abortion in the inaugural post of her newsletter, More to Hate.
Lara Freidenfelds: With Roe gone, women will die
Abortion, miscarriage and pre-term birth are about to get a lot more dangerous for American women. While reproductive care in the half-century since Roe has had its flaws – the best care has too often been restricted to the wealthiest and whitest women – it is nonetheless the safest it has ever been, and laws that restrict abortion will be a huge step backward.
In the 1700s, women used herbal home remedies to “bring down” the menses and space out births, but those remedies were marginally effective in low doses and dangerous in larger amounts. Doctors prioritized women’s lives in miscarriages and complicated births but could only do so much.
In the 1800s, women increasingly sought out professional abortionists for procedures to open the cervix. Well-established professionals, such as Madame Restell in New York City, provided safe and reliable abortions. Toward the end of the century, doctors increasingly developed surgical techniques to clear the uterus and prevent hemorrhage from miscarriage.
But conservative physicians’ movements would disrupt these developments. The newly formed American Medical Association pushed for laws criminalizing abortions provided by non-“regular” doctors. Catholic physicians’ groups questioned the morality of saving women’s lives by ending pregnancies, even those that could never result in live birth.
As a result, abortion was pushed underground. Medical knowledge expanded, but pregnancy remained unnecessarily dangerous – that is, until Roe reinstated a right to the medical care women had pursued for over 100 years.
Now, with Roe gone, abortion will likely go underground again in many states, and some doctors will be forced to put miscarrying patients’ lives at risk while there’s a fetal heartbeat. Feminist activists will no doubt push back, bolstered by the history of 1960s feminist resistance and a vocal movement to de-stigmatize abortion care. But make no mistake, with Roe gone, women will die.
Lara Freidenfelds, PhD, is the author of “The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America” (Oxford University Press, 2020) and “The Modern Period: Menstruation in Twentieth-Century America” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).
Alice Stewart: Overturning Roe is a victory for US democracy
The Supreme Court has delivered a landmark victory for the pro-life movement – and an astounding victory for US democracy.
The high court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case is a culmination of a long-fought, deeply emotional battle for those of us who support the sanctity of life. And now the controversial issue of abortion has been taken out of the hands of nine unelected justices and placed in the hands of elected state officials. This is the way it should be: abortion policy is best decided at the state level – closest to the people.
Anti-abortion advocates have been fighting for this monumental decision for almost 50 years. And Justice Samuel Alito was correct in his majority opinion, when he wrote: “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”
Due to advances in scientific technology, the humanity of unborn children is undeniable. With today’s medical advances, doctors are able to see when a fetus forms organs, how much blood is pumped through its heart and so on. The more we learn, the more we realize these unborn children deserve to be protected.
The fateful journey of this movement has prepared us for such a time as this – a time to be there for these innocent unborns, as well as for their mothers. Pregnancy care centers and other private and public programs are set up nationwide to provide resources needed for expectant mothers who choose to keep their babies.
Now that the court has stepped out of the abortion business, it’s time for democratically elected leaders to take up the mantle and protect those yet to be born. That’s what democracy is all about.
Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator and board member at the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics at Harvard University.