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How The Court Just Changed America

Historians in the News
tags: abortion, Supreme Court



The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will create two Americas when it comes to abortion access — the mostly red states where abortion is illegal in most circumstances, and the mostly blue states where it is mostly available with restrictions. But this sudden cleaving in the United States will go far beyond abortion access, affecting healthcare, the criminal legal system and politics, at all levels, in the coming years.

We can’t know exactly how all of this will change. But we asked a group of historians, legal scholars and women’s health experts what they think will happen to the abortion landscape in the United States, and how that will affect law, politics, healthcare and society. Some thought the reversal of Roe would soothe political polarization by taking abortion out of national politics. Others thought the exact opposite would happen: Abortion would become a front-burner political issue at all levels, pushing our already-extreme polarization to boil over. Still others thought the decision wouldn’t make much of a difference — because aren’t the states and the parties pretty much sorted already?

A range of thinkers on the future of abortion post-Roe in America — and how that will affect everything else.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will create two Americas when it comes to abortion access — the mostly red states where abortion is illegal in most circumstances, and the mostly blue states where it is mostly available with restrictions. But this sudden cleaving in the United States will go far beyond abortion access, affecting healthcare, the criminal legal system and politics, at all levels, in the coming years.

We can’t know exactly how all of this will change. But we asked a group of historians, legal scholars and women’s health experts what they think will happen to the abortion landscape in the United States, and how that will affect law, politics, healthcare and society. Some thought the reversal of Roe would soothe political polarization by taking abortion out of national politics. Others thought the exact opposite would happen: Abortion would become a front-burner political issue at all levels, pushing our already-extreme polarization to boil over. Still others thought the decision wouldn’t make much of a difference — because aren’t the states and the parties pretty much sorted already?

Contributors of all ideological stripes had reason for hope as well as reason for caution. One conservative was optimistic that Republicans would rise to the urgency and embrace a whole-life approach toward mothers and children; one liberal was optimistic that the Supreme Court would move to more fully protect abortion rights in the future.

The long-term outcome of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling is anything but clear right now. But hearing a range of thinkers’ best guesses at where we could go can give us insight into the visions of the country that anti-abortion and pro-abortion groups will be fighting for now that 50 years of Roe v. Wade are firmly behind us.

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Keisha N. Blain, a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow and Class of 2022 Carnegie Fellow, is professor of Africana Studies and history at Brown University. She is the author of Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America.

One of the outcomes of the Roe v. Wade decision that concerns me most is how the removal of Roe‘s protections will worsen maternal health conditions for Black women.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than one-third of abortion patients in the United States are Black women, meaning that post-Roe, Black women will be most impacted by the ban on abortion in most red states. As a result, the decision to end legal access to abortions will also further exacerbate the disproportionately high maternal mortality rate among Black women and place their reproductive health at greater risk.

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Daniel K. Williams is a professor of history at the University of West Georgia and the author of Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade.

The reversal of Roe v. Wade will probably confirm and exacerbate existing trends rather than substantially change them. If these trends continue for the next decade, regional variations in abortion policy will merely be exaggerated versions of those that we already see today.

Opponents of abortion anticipate that the reversal of Roe v. Wade will reduce the number of abortions in the United States, but any impact of the decision on the abortion rate will be quite modest. That is partly because the states that are most likely to ban abortion have already made it so difficult for abortion providers to operate that most shut down or fled these states several years ago. Of the 13 states with trigger laws that would ban most abortions as soon as Roe v. Wade is reversed, three (Texas, Idaho and Oklahoma) have enacted policies during the past year that already effectively prohibit the vast majority of abortions. The other 10 have so few abortion providers — and so few abortions provided — that a near-complete ban on abortion would affect fewer than 5 percent of the abortions performed in the United States each year and would shut down only 50 of the nation’s more than 1,500 abortion providers.

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John Fea is professor of history at Messiah University and executive editor of Current.

It appears the Christian right dog has caught the abortion bus. What comes next? The overturning of Roe v. Wade will make it more difficult for some women to access abortion services, but it will not lead to a lessening of the moral battle on this front. The Christian right is already mobilizing for the fight over abortion in the states. A victory in Dobbs is only the beginning. Abortion rights groups are hard at work finding the most cost-efficient ways to help women travel to states where abortion will remain legal.

In the next decade, we can all expect the culture wars to come closer to home. Races for seats in state legislatures — local elections usually ignored by most of the American people — will take on a new sense of urgency. Expect candidates for these offices to build entire campaigns around abortion. Participation in the democratic process at the local level will increase, but as we have seen with recent school board debates over critical race theory, we cannot expect such renewed interest in the political process to always, if ever, be civil.

Read entire article at Politico

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