The protests intensified by the leaking of the draft Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, also known as the Mississippi Abortion Case, is a warm-up for more intense protests that will no doubt occur if the decision to overturn Roe v. June.
Nearly all observers expect Roe to turn around, except Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who say they believe Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh’s claim that “Roe was an established law” during their nomination hearings.
The two Republican senators in favor of the election could soon have a reflection after confirming the men in the Supreme Court.
For nearly half a century, Roe’s politics have dominated America. It feels like a bad dream. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, abortion policy will not go away soon because pro-election and pro-life participants and the structure of the U.S. political system will keep the pot moving.
Politics around Roe has hampered political action on other critical issues because pro-Roe and anti-Roe coalitions absorb a lot of time and attention.
The leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion, and the incendiary ideas and expressions it contains, for example, “deeply rooted history,” show the power of the Roe issue to lead the poisoning of the American political system. .
Although I am not a Supreme Court group member, I generally advocate following institutional rules and regulations for the general good. Public approval by the Supreme Court fell to 40% last year, when it was often more than 60% in favor since 2000.
Roe himself and the issue of abortion are polarizing issues, in part because Americans disagree, but also because we talk to each other and see different aspects of abortion.
Here are five facts that I would like all Americans to recite before entering into abortion conversations:
1. Abortions were performed in about half of the states before the Roe v. Wade in 1973, and they practiced medicine in the early 1900s before the American Medical Association lobbied to force what we now call “alternative medicine providers.”
2. Public opinion on abortion has remained stable in national polls, with about two-thirds of Americans in favor of keeping Roe v. Wade. However, there is a wide variation between states, with 74% of Massachusetts respondents supporting some form of legal abortion at the highest support rate, and West Virginia the lowest with 35 % supporting abortion. Missouri and Texas are tied for 40th, with 45% support for abortion in most cases. This variation in status explains why Roe’s policy has remained polarizing for nearly 50 years.
3. The number of abortions performed has decreased both nationally and in Missouri. The Guttmacher Institute reports that 18% of pregnancies ended in abortion in 2017 with approximately 862,320 abortions performed, 7% less than in 926,190 in 2014. The decrease is likely due to abortion restrictions, the improvement of more accessible sex education and birth control.
Missouri has not had any abortion providers since 2019, when Planned Parenthood of St. Louis moved to Illinois. The Missouri Department of Health reports that 3,903 abortions were performed in Missouri in 2017, compared to 19,043 in 1980.
4. Turning Roe upside down won’t end the abortion; will allow states to regulate abortion. Missouri is one of 13 states where a ban on any abortion would be automatically activated if Roe falls. Sixteen states, including Illinois, California and New York, have codified abortion as a protected right.
5. There are medical alternatives to dilation and curettage abortion (D&C), and more are likely to be available. More than half of all abortions last year were medically induced. Last December, the Food and Drug Administration approved the distribution of mifepristone without a direct visit and prescription. At least 10 states have restricted medical abortions, and other states, including Missouri, are likely to ban them as well, forcing residents to go to a state that allows abortion to receive abortion pills even through a telemedicine.
Widespread protests over the leaked news earlier this week will no doubt take place again when the final decision is announced in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. After a couple of days of protests, protesters should focus on a “post Roe, pro-women” agenda.
Much of the pro-election rhetoric, as reflected in the signs of the protests and media interviews, is about women’s empowerment. Ratification of the amendment on equal rights will help to empower women. The deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment should be extended and Missouri should ratify it.
Preventing unwanted pregnancies is the best abortion policy. To this end, the availability of sex education and birth control should be expanded. Rape and incest laws must be aggressively enforced, including funding for the analysis of delaying rape kits.
If Roe is overthrown, pro-life groups may become more pro-life by opposing the death penalty, regulating weapons that kill people, and supporting policies that reduce poverty and homelessness.
Some political experts predict that Roe’s removal will affect the state elections and the 2022 midterm congress. After nearly 50 years of abortion policy, I don’t expect much electoral impact from Roe v. Wade given voters’ concern about Trump’s political influence, inflation, Ukraine, COVID-19 and the economy.
The only way to move forward with abortion policy is for Americans to agree that some states allow abortion and some to ban it. In the current era of nationalization of news and politics, this is unlikely, so abortion policy will continue.
David Webber joined the MU Department of Political Science in 1986 and wrote his first column for the Missourian in 1994. He can be contacted at Webberd@missouri.edu.
David Webber joined the MU Department of Political Science in 1986 and wrote his first column for the Missourian in 1994.