I was a freshman in high school taking a speech and debate class. Teams of two would take a topic and debate a team of two arguing the opposite. My friend Robert and I prepped to argue in support of restricting and banning abortion access. The day came. He and I sat on one side ready to wave the pro-life flag while the team across from us was poised to clobber us before our first breath.
I’ll put it this way: they told me I looked like a deer in headlights. So, you can imagine the outcome was not in my favor.
It’s been a few years so I’ve had time to reflect on why our argument fell flat. My conclusion is fairly simple yet solidly complex: I could not argue for something I did not believe was true. And not just that but I couldn’t even fake it through my scribbled notes. Why were we arguing about what someone can do with their body? And not just any body but a body like mine. Why couldn’t I be in charge of it? It’s mine, right?
But now, twenty-six years later, debaters have gathered again – just on a bigger stage than my freshman class. This time it was in response to the publishing of an early draft introducing the public to where the Supreme Court Justices may land on abortion access in our nation. The leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court that was published by Politico in May was monumental not just by the unprecedented method of its announcement but with a reality to all women that a majority of justices would prevail and vote to overturn Roe v. Wade nearly fifty years after it made abortion a constitutional right. Within hours Chief Justice Roberts called the leak a “betrayal” but said the draft was genuine.
Let’s talk about betrayal.
Whoever leaked the document betrayed any trust the voting population may still have in the security and operations of our highest court. I love a good story (don’t misunderstand that) but this was not the way.
But a bigger betrayal has now transpired.
On Friday, June 24th, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Roe vs. Wade decision and ruled that states may again outlaw abortion. They overturned a half-century of upholding the validity of Roe and stripped women of the right to access abortion.
Judge Alito’s opinion claims the issue of abortion rights must return to the “people’s representatives.” With the reversal of the Roe ruling, the access to abortion providers is solely up to each state. Before this reversal, access to reproductive services (full or limited), which include abortion, was legal in all fifty states. Without Roe, almost half of these states could move towards a complete ban. Texas and Oklahoma are currently leading the way in criminalizing abortions performed once a fetal heartbeat has been detected (around six weeks) before most women know they are pregnant.
The Roe case has not just protected abortion access but also protected a woman to make decisions about her own body. The Associated Press reported that Black and Hispanic women living in southern-conservative states with already restricted abortion access will carry the undue burden if in fact abortion would be outlawed.
Further, we must not be swayed by the emotional and specific language used as a distraction. If this truly was about protecting babies then states such as Texas and Oklahoma would offer the best-extended maternity and paternity leaves. They would offer diaper and food programs. And they would have the best statewide childcare and fully-funded preschool for all. If it was about protecting babies then lawmakers would spend their energy on actual protections that would support the lives of children instead of criminalizing women.
Where is the ninety-eight-page opinion on laws regulating men’s reproductive health care?
There isn’t one because there are no laws regulating or limiting men’s access to reproductive health care. Not one.
Overturning Roe is a disaster and an absolute assault to the belief that all women regardless of race or socioeconomic status are worthy of deciding what they will and will not do with their bodies.
The biggest betrayal is for us to remain neutral.