Well, there goes Roe v Wade. The US Supreme court has overturned this 1973 ruling that protected American women’s constitutional right to abortions. This is unsurprising, given that it now has a conservative majority,
I wrote what follows a few weeks ago, when the Supreme Court’s draft opinion had just been leaked:
This is another horrifying development in the ongoing conflicts that split our societies. Samuel Alito, the author of the draft, appears to be some sort of monstruous throwback to an 18th Century hanging judge. The Guardian (07/05/22) claims that his opinion relies on two treatises by a Sir Matthew Hale, an English Jurist writing in 1673, who successfully prosecuted women for witchcraft and had them hanged, and who wrote an influential text saying a man could not be convicted of raping his wife because “the wife hath given up herself” to her husband’s use. Hale, though, was a product of his age.
Alito’s argument also relies on the fact that the American Constitution, signed in 1787, “makes no reference to abortion” and thus he can deny to women the basic principles of human rights that underpin the whole document. (As The Guardian points out, it also “makes no reference to aeroplanes, car licence plates or Snapchat, though that hasn’t prevented the nine justices applying constitutional laws to those fields” ibid)
Nobody wants abortions. They are unpleasant and highly regrettable procedures for all concerned. Much more so for the woman who must endure its blood-soaked physical and psychological trauma, than it is for hate-spewing moralists protesting outside clinics. The former is driven by desperation, the latter by, at best, an evolutionary tendency to feel sentimental and protective of little baby-shaped things. This cuteness extends to the non-human and not yet human in any meaningful sense: puppies, kittens, cuddly toys, bundles of insentient cells in other people’s bodies…
However, abortion can clearly be the lesser of two evils. To deny a woman an early abortion is to deny her the right to make fundamental decisions about the rest of her life. The courts would be taking control of another person’s flesh. They would be forcing her into reproductive slavery, imposing profound hormonal, biological and psychological changes on her body, torturing her with her constant awareness of an unwanted thing growing inside her for 9 whole months, before insisting that she endures the physical trauma of childbirth, imposing severe financial burdens on her, of one sort or another, even if the child is immediately removed from her.
The courts would also be dictating the progress of another life: that of the resulting child. He or she may well face a bleak future. Children in care are often miserable, often facing a lifetime utterly alone and unloved. Theirs is a cold and inhospitable world, without the warm comforting, nurturing support of a family or community. Forced to become wholly self-reliant, emotionally, they can shrink back into themselves; their capacity for love and empathy can shrivel, sometimes permanently. They can become numb, dispassionate. This is the most dreadful lifetime curse. To demand such outcomes by law, to actually create them by insisting that such lives come into being, to force them on a woman and a child, is beyond ordinary sin. It is almost demonic.