Engaging the Roe debate …

News & Politics

While I agree with Deanna's post, below, I think there's a fair argument to be made that if Roe were overturned, progressives would be better off for it.

Clearly, Roe has a bad effect on our democracy; it's frustrated debates on other substantive policy issues and is a supremely effective wedge for the right just as they've found it more problematic to play the race card in the open, without resorting to code.

Sending abortion back to the states, the argument goes, would take much of the wind out of the sails of the "backlash" right.

I can't really get behind that for two simple reasons. One, abandoning Roe would lead to real-life consequences for who knows how many women (and men) in terms of unwanted pregnancies and unwanted babies - the reasons we're pro-choice in the first place. Second, and just as importantly, is the principle of the thing: by overturning Roe you're acquiescing to the idea that the state (or the states, more accurately) has the right to control not just women's bodies but who knows what other intimate and personal parts of our lives.

That's a slippery slope leading to all sorts of government offenses on issues as far a field as a right to die with dignity.

For a more comprehensive argument on why we have to fight for Roe --exhausted or not -- see Katha Pollitt's Nation piece from July.

So you can see that I'm far more conflicted than my colleague on this: I agree with the analysis (Roe warps American politics beyond recognition), but not the prescription (we should abandon the fight).

But there's another argument that bears consideration. It's about energy; it seems that there is boundless passion on the dark side of this issue while so many young women (and, again, men) who should be on our side think "feminism" is a dirty word and simply take their rights for granted.

As Pollitt wrote, "Overturning Roe would definitely energize prochoicers and wake up the young featherheads who think their rights are safe because they have always had them." She goes on to quote Susan Estrich saying that if Roe were overturned, "every election, for every state office, would become a referendum not on parental consent or partial birth abortion, but on whether regular old middle-class adult women could get first-trimester abortions. When you think about it that way, you have to ask: What could be better for Democrats?"

Pollitt says: "the trouble is, getting rid of Roe would energize antichoicers too," but I'm not so sure. Can they be more energized then they already are? Could we be more asleep at the wheel, especially young people? The problem is the passion-gap.

I don't have an answer. You can use the comments as a discussion thread for conflicted pro-choicers.

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