In 1973, the US supreme court, in a case called Roe v Wade, effectively legalised abortion throughout the United States, on demand during the first three months of pregnancy, with some restrictions in the second three months, and only in the case of the mother’s life being at risk in the final three months.
Within those parameters, each American state had its own provisions. According to a recent poll taken by the Pew Research Center 61 percent of US adults broadly agreed with the decision in Roe v Wade, while 37 percent were opposed to it.
Notwithstanding the overwhelming support of the US public for women to have the right to abortion, on 22 June 2022, a supreme court now stacked full of ‘conservative’ justices appointed during the administration of Donald Trump, published a verdict in the case of Dobb v Women’s Health Organization which overturned Roe v Wade and gave carte blanche to the various individual states to make whatever rules they saw fit.
More than half of US states are now set effectively to illegalise abortion completely.
This decision brought joy to the hearts of the so-called ‘pro-lifers’, but despair to most. Although theoretically a woman can still travel to another state to have an abortion if it is banned in her home state, too many women seeking abortion do so because of poverty, and would therefore all too often be unable to afford the cost of travel and accommodation away from home.
It is rare for a ‘pro-lifer’ to support the idea of providing the kind of social support for mothers and their children that might render abortion unnecessary. Moreover, pro-lifers lack any concern for the life of mothers who die as a result of backstreet abortions, or the wellbeing of families with more children than can be afforded. Being anti-abortion in today’s USA seems to go hand in hand with believing that the state should provide as little as possible in terms of welfare benefits in order to maximise the profitability of business.
Western major media sources, not so keen on looking at events in Ukraine at the moment, much less the real and glaring reasons for food shortages and massive price hikes in fuel in America and Europe as gigantic recessions loom over their economies, have been thrown an old but enduring political football to run about with for a while in the form of US abortion policies and laws.
On the face of it, we are told that this is a very important event concerning an emotive issue in the USA based around people’s religious and/or ‘liberal or conservative’ beliefs that from time to time does flare up.
Or, was it a cynical decision of the US elite, the 0.1 percent, who are feeling quite edgy at the moment because they are not doing very well in their proxy war with Russia?
President Joe Biden was announcing some measures on gun controls on the same day that this supreme court (SC) judgement was made, and, unusually, the limited controls on guns that would normally have had conservative America out on the streets were mainly overlooked as all the news on abortion rights took centre stage.
Whatever views American people have, many were out screaming at each other in the usual decibel achievement contests that US society seems to save for these events.
The USA’s ruling elite have been trying to rein in and tighten the ownership of guns for a long time, but that goal is now getting urgent as those fuel prices and food shortages, along with a growing displeasure at the huge amounts of money being thrown at Ukraine, could bring some of those guns onto US streets in large numbers.
So perhaps: ‘a little step, stealthily taken, Joe, but many more needed’, would be the verdict of the president’s real paymasters.
Back to Roe v Wade, and we find that there are reasons of a more internal US party-political nature for the supreme court’s decision. There are reams of statistics built up over the years which show that more Republican voters are moved to vote for anti-abortionist candidates, especially if the candidate says that they will work to reverse the 50 year-old Roe v Wade ruling. Democrat voters, most of whom support abortion to some degree, and mainly believing the Roe v Wade ruling to be untouchable, look at other factors when deciding how or even if to cast their vote.
President Biden was quick to announce his disappointment with the supreme court, which has a Republican/conservative leaning, but he could change the make-up of the nine-person court tomorrow simply by adding 3-4 Democrat judges into it. This is something that will be raised with him by abortion supporters but, so far, he is saying that he will not do it.
One would have thought that the whole point of that supreme court being selected by the president would be for it then to go the way he/she wants. We refuse to believe that Biden doesn’t want to do this out of some sense of moral decency, so let’s look a little deeper.
Biden launched a commission back in April 2021 to explore possible supreme court reforms, but that commission avoided taking a position in its final report on the practise of so-called ‘court packing’ – ie, adding justices to the current nine on the bench – though it did say that there was no legal obstacle to this practise.
The day following the supreme court’s ruling on Roe v Wade, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the possibility of altering the supreme court numbers to change the outcome. She told journalists that expanding the court “is something that the president does not agree with”.
Biden, with his meagre and falling 36 percent approval rating from American voters may well be hoping that in all future elections, and when he meets Trump again, Democrat voters will flock out to vote Democrat to regain the Roe v Wade protection for abortion.
Even the BBC has noticed: “If Democrats are able to use the abortion issue to energise their base, it could give their hopes of electoral success new life despite a president struggling with low popularity and a challenging economic climate.”
But, of course, if those Democrat and swinging voters could ask awkward questions, such as “why vote Democrat to regain Roe v Wade? It was lost during a Democrat term in office and that Democrat president (Biden) refused to get it back when he could have done.” This would be the end for Biden, whose rank cynicism would be exposed to far more people when they understood that he had just been playing them.
Whatever other games and strategies are going on behind the scenes, this supreme court ruling is nothing but a smokescreen to guard American sensibilities from witnessing the reality of the US empire on its knees searching for the hegemony it once thought it held so securely.