Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Betrayal of Roe

New York Mag, Intelligencer

The aftermath of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments this week on the fate of Roe v. Wade — in which a phalanx of right-wing justices made plain their disdain for the law — has been a festival of finger-pointing and recrimination by those who were startled to have woken up in a world in which it looks very much like the right to legal abortion care will soon cease to exist at the federal level.

I understand the impulse to point fingers at individuals and factions, have myself often felt the gratification that comes from naming the bad guy responsible for a mess. It feels so very good, in such a very bad time, to hate Donald Trump, as well as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and also, somehow, Susan Sarandon. This was, surely, their fault, and also the fault of everyone with the shortsightedness and self-regard to have supported them or voted for them or worn a T-shirt with their faces on it.

But this impulse is itself shortsighted and self-serving, in that it allows us to evade the far more suffocating and incriminating reality: that we got to this terrifying place not just by some wrong turn made recently by one wrong person we don’t like, but by decades-long, systemic failures. The biggest and most damning of these is the failure to counter a regressive movement’s project to ensure minority rule and thus dismantle the rights and protections won by activists who labored over generations to gain them — abortion rights very much included. That failure in turn reflects a deeper one: an unwillingness to take the full humanity of women, of pregnant people, of Black and brown and poor people, seriously.

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