Living in Scary Times

The US highest tribunal, the Supreme Court, in Washington, D.C., is taking a dangerous right turn with the leak of a draft opinion that would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. United States Civil Rights Trail

Over the past couple of years, we have been wondering if the state of politics can get worse. It all started in 2016, with the election of Donald Trump as president after 8 years of what can be called progressive governance. Instantly, there was a political realignment. The populism tsunami witnessed not only affected our southern neighbour but also other democratic countries worldwide who had previously been flirting with right-wing ideologies. Never has there been a president who was getting so cozy with dictators like Putin and Kim Jong-un to name a few. At that moment, it felt like Americans had chosen to go backwards, surfing on the waves of intolerance and xenophobia. It felt like isolationist was the mantra to international relations and that entertainment politics and the chase for « freedom » prevailed over everything.

Most recently, we have been dealing with the worst global public health crisis in modern history. This pandemic has been at the forefront of politics worldwide for over two years now, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon with cases going up. On that front, the future is uncertain based on the fact that new variants that might undermine the vaccines seems inevitable in the long run.

In addition to that, the world has never been closer to World War III with the ongoing war in Ukraine. The scariest part of this is that the world now possesses nuclear arsenals capable of annihilating society as we know it.

So add in the mix the intention of most of the Supreme Court judges to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision and we are in for a roller coaster. Abortion has remained in the political conversations, even if it is sort of a taboo subject that republicans seem to want to stay away from commenting on sometimes. To this day, whether we want it or not, abortion remains a polarizing issue that is contested by a large part of the population in the western world, overwhelmingly for religious reasons. It is certainly splitting the American population and the two main parties.

Now that the US has a new president since January 2021, we can expect a different outcome than what we have been used to under Trump’s presidency. The shift has been clear. However, thanks to Trump naming US Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett during his term, the highest court in the country is now leaning to the right once more. If we look closely, we can affirm that 6 of the 9 justices are conservative leaning. It is to be noted that the 3 judges appointed by President Trump said that they had no agenda to overturn Roe v. Wade during their respective hearings, adding that it has been reaffirmed multiple times throughout the decades.

The draft ruling (dating from February) that was leaked Monday night, and initially reported by Politico, is only that, a draft- meaning that nothing is set in stone. Lots can happen before the draft materializes. Still, it doesn’t take away how troubling this opinion document is.

According to reports, a final decision is not expected to be issued until June or early July. The ruling is not final. It could change before that date. And if it does happen, it would be up to each state individually to decide to make abortion legal or not. In the 98-page document, Justice Alito wrote: “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

The “bible belt” states will do everything in their power to ban abortion once and for all if the landmark decision is overturned. Mississippi sure wants the Supreme Court to revoke its 1973 decision, which guarantees federal constitutional protections of abortion rights. In 2018, the state passed a bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks gestation. This act has been caught up in legal fights since then. Now, Mississippi is also asking the highest court in the country to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But for liberals, they could decide to pass through Congress to invalidate the decision of the Supreme Court.

No matter what your opinion on abortion is, a potential overturn of Roe v. Wade would be disastrous for democracy as a whole since it would leave the door wide open for future repeals of other decisions that were made by the court.

The US midterm elections are around the corner and just like that abortion will be one of the top issues, with inflation and the cost of living. On the campaign trail, we can expect a clash between the debating of social issues without ignoring what is hurting Americans most at the moment; the fact that the US inflation jumped to 8.5 percent in the past year, the worst numbers since 1981. As a reminder, during the November midterms, 35 of the 100 Senate seats will be contested as well as all the seats in the House of Representatives. Among other things, it will be a good test for Biden to see if Americans are satisfied by his handling of the pandemic and his first two years in office.

Most political elites commented on the leak and what a ruling like this one would mean if it was followed through. All democrats are quite surprised, partially because this issue seemed as if it was behind us. They argue that the potential ban of abortion would hurt mostly low-income women, and especially minorities that need to have this option available.

After all, the Supreme Court landmark decision was made in 1973. It is hard to see how society can go back almost 50 years to take away something that women took for granted. Citizens who were appalled by the content of the leak took to the streets across the country to show their frustration. As reported, there were a few incidents of confrontations between police officers and demonstrators.

One elected official who was pretty outraged by the leaked was Senator Elizabeth Warren. She met protesters on the steps of the Supreme Court to show her support to abortion. Twitter

Some republican representatives and senators didn’t hide. They showed their satisfaction with Justice Alito’s initial draft abortion opinion, saying that a ruling in this matter would save countless lives. Most republicans were scandalized on the leak itself. They are wondering how a draft opinion piece like this one can become public. They are asking for an investigation to find the person who leaked the document, repeating that this is a clear breach of confidentiality. Some are stating that this is far worse than the Capitol riots of January 2021, because it attacks the Court proceedings like never before in its history.

President Biden took to Twitter to share his statement about the draft. He reaffirmed his position on abortion, and the importance of protecting this fundamental right for women. He also went a step further when talking about the issue. He said that this might be a precursor to other rights violations.

President Biden statement on the Supreme Court decision draft that was leaked and put into broad day light by Politico. Twitter

The President mentioned that this might question same-sex marriage, which was legalized by the Supreme Court in 2015 by a vote of 5 to 4. Previously to this decision, 38 states had legalized same-sex marriage. In the past, Justice Alito as well as his colleague Justice Thomas said that they would be open to overturn the marriage equality ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges.

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Olivier Pilon

Graduated with a masters degree in politics from the University of Quebec in Montreal. Human rights, LGBT issues, sports and music. Twitter: @OlivierPilon