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Republicans, and Manchin, pose the greatest threat to American life.

If the headline seems alarmist, good – it’s meant to be. You should be alarmed, and outright pissed off. This is not a drill. 

Fifty Senate Republicans, plus Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), just blocked the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation that would’ve codified the right to safe abortion access as the highest court in the land seems poised to unravel nearly 50 years of legal precedent. Manchin’s reasoning: The bill giving women the right to make their own reproductive health decisions was just “too broad.” 

Hey, Manchin, I have questions. What level of bodily autonomy is acceptable for us women, and our daughters? Exactly how narrow should our rights be before you’re comfortable?

There is nothing pro-life about overturning Roe v Wade. Females, predominantly poor women and underage girls, will die without safe access to abortions. Families, predominantly poor families, will financially suffer. Decades of women’s progress in education, leadership roles and workplace will unravel. Unwanted children will flood an already overwhelmed and inadequate foster care system. More women will be subject to domestic violence. Negative impacts will be concentrated among the nation’s most vulnerable. These are facts proven in pre-Roe history. 

Nik Wojcik/SFBay Two women stand vigil to “end abortion” at the Concord, Calif. Planned Parenthood on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. As part of a fall campaign organized by 40 Days for Life, more than 500 such vigils are being held at abortion clinics between Sept. 23 and Nov. 1, 2020.

The undoing of Roe, and Justice Samuel Alito’s penned attack on the Due Process Clause, commonly known as the privacy clause, will start tipping dominoes where myriad other constitutional rights can be challenged. Some of the country’s most prominent landmark cases are built on privacy clause precedent, including legal use of contraceptives, interracial marriage and marriage equality. Like a game of Jenga, you risk the whole tower falling if you carelessly pull one block from the structure. 

Alito wrote:

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitely protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely–the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The indication that Roe will be overturned by the conservative-packed court should come as no surprise. The GOP has not been vague, especially in recent years, about their desire to rescind abortion rights and their willingness to manipulate court makeup in order to do so. Their tight relationship with the Federalist Society – a conservative think-tank that vets and ‘recommends’ anti-abortion judges for Republican presidents, including Donald Trump, has been widely exposed – though it’s questionable they ever meant to hide it. 

Their intentions have been clear and widely broadcast – the revolution has been televised, so to speak, but Americans have largely shrugged off the threat as an impossibility, until it just became possible. The Roe decision isn’t the beginning of a hostile takeover, it’s a victory over progress in a long game we’ve been sleeping through, and we’re only now seeing the tip of the iceberg. 

Republican legislators and religious leaders celebrating the leaked Supreme Court draft ruling are not applauding preservation of life — they’re applauding misogyny, forced regression and imminent death. And they’re doing so at a time when abortion rates and unwanted pregnancies are already in decline, in large part due to sex education in schools and increased access to contraception made possible under the Affordable Care Act. Republicans repeatedly tried to repeal the ACA, and a growing number of ‘mainstream’ new-right conservatives are gunning to end sex ed programs in public schools.

Wikimedia Commons Gloria Alred fights for women’s right to safe abortion.

In a footnote to the draft SCOTUS decision, Alito alludes to an underlying driver in the attack on women’s reproductive rights – he cites the need for a “domestic supply of infants” for adoption.   

The U.S. birth rate has been in almost continuous decline since the Great Recession. The 2020 fertility rate, which is the most recent reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hit a record low, as it also did the two years prior. The calculated 1.64 children per woman fell below what’s referred to as the “replacement-level fertility” rate of 2.1. In simple terms, U.S. citizens are not having enough children to replace our aging populace. 

Granting citizenship to more immigrants would bolster the workforce and tax-paying pool, but we all know where Republicans stand on immigration – that solution wouldn’t produce the ‘type’ of population they want to see flourish in the U.S.   

Heavy pollution, declining birth rates, infiltration of radical religious ideology in American politics, “don’t say gay” laws, book banning, an attack on the U.S. Capitol…

It’s the scene set as Gilead gains control in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian “Handmaid’s Tale”  – it’s also current reality in the U.S. 

The Atwood story has been referenced ad nauseum in the week since the draft was leaked, but it would take blinders not to see the striking similarities, and fear what could come next. What seemed outlandish 20 years ago is no longer outside the realm of possibility.  

As the story’s protagonist reflects on how Gilead came to be, and how she was forced into sexual slavery for the ‘better good’ of society, she says:

“Now I’m awake to the world. I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen. … Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”

Make no mistake, the Sons of Jacob are coming, but they’re draped in MAGA flags. Sure, that may ring hyperbolic, but the last several years have taught us that ‘unprecedented’ is the new precedent when the increasingly radical right wields power. 

Yes, you should be alarmed and furious, and you should be damn well ready to vote like your life depends on it…because it does.

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