By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH
May 12, 2022 (San Diego) -- Recently, a draft was leaked of a potential Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade written by Justice Samuel Alito (Political Staff, 2022). East County Magazine published a previous op-ed by me entitled: “Abortion is a 1st Amendment Issue” (2020 Feb. 24). The following are some additional thoughts based on the draft written by Justice Alito that will allow states to outlaw abortion.
Alito bases his opinion on, to some extent, original intent of our Founding Fathers, those who actually wrote our Constitution. At the time, the majority were slave owners. Others had indentured servants: poor whites “contracted” for up to seven years’ labor. In many cases they were treated brutally (Garrett-Hatfield). Women had basically NO rights (Kuhn, 2022; Lange, 2015).
While the 1st Amendment supposedly separated church and state, it only applied to the Federal government (Constitutional Rights Foundation; Sehat, 2011; Vile, 2009). Several states had an official religion, funded through taxes; e.g., Connecticut Congregational, Virginia Anglican. In addition, “Justice Alito’s leaked opinion also cites Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century jurist who conceived the notion that husbands can’t be prosecuted for raping their wives, who sentenced women to death as ‘witches,’ and whose misogyny stood out even in his time. (Armstrong, 2022). At the time, the US was fairly homogeneous, living in a pre-scientific age, pre-industrial age, mainly rural population. Should we really base our laws on the mentality and culture of our Founding Fathers?
After the Civil War, despite the 14th Amendment supposedly applying the Bill of Rights to the states, school prayers were the norm. In fact, I remember my high school, Helix High, having a cross on the lawn in front, our school hymn included “where the Cross meets the blue” and we had prayers beginning first class. Keep in mind that almost all anti-abortionists cite the Bible as their justification. Maybe, we should pass an Amendment nullifying the 1st Amendment? Even more hypocritical is that the vast majority of those opposing abortion are Evangelicals who can trace their origins to Baptists, who were among those persecuted and discriminated against in states with an official religion (Cline, 2019; Heyrman, 1997). Now, they want to impose their religion on others.
Since Roe v Wade there have been an estimated 61 million legal abortions performed in the US. If none had been performed, assuming many would have had children and even grandchildren, the current US population could easily have 100 million or more, perhaps, approaching 500 million. Given water shortages, power shortages, food shortages, and even with our poor attempts at mitigating climate change, such an increase in population would accelerate climate change, so what would the US look like today? Keep in mind that with our current tax revolts, health care, including prenatal care, food stamps, aid to poor families, and funding for schools are already hurting. So, there is no indication people would be willing to pay increased taxes to benefit even those alive today, let alone the population we would have without abortions. Thus, we would have a higher percentage of population with various birth defects, nutritional deficiencies, and poorly educated. I guess this could be a boon for our growing for-profit prison sector.
Keep in mind that before Roe v. Wade, many women died from illegal abortions and from sepsis, ectopic pregnancies, etc. With the outlawing of abortions, this will be one of the outcomes and more babies will be stillborn or die shortly thereafter because of severe congenital abnormalities.
I am a regular blood donor. I do it to help others, total strangers. However, if I had a rare blood type and there was someone hospitalized needing such blood, though not a legal scholar, I doubt police could arrest me, transport me to the hospital and force me to give blood. Or, if somehow my DNA was in some registry, I doubt I could be forced to donate bone marrow. However one looks at it, forcing a woman, even one raped, to carry a fetus is forcing her to share her body.
While the right to privacy and to our own bodies is NOT specifically written into our Constitution, the Ninth Amendment states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” If we don’t have an understood right to privacy, nor to our own bodies, what good is any other right?
Not enumerating something, especially given the evolution of our society, should not give license for Supreme Court Justices and various state legislatures to impose their religious beliefs on others. And even worse is that those states now outlawing abortion are guilty of subverting democracy with gerrymandering, voter suppression, and massive funding of elections (Berman, 2019). Even in those states, polls show an overwhelming majority support a woman’s right to choose (e.g. Oxner, 2022).
Someone once said, “In the United States the 19th Century was followed by the 20th Century which was followed by the 19th Century”. Well, in the latter part of the 19th Century the vast majority of wealth was controlled by a small percentage of our population and we have returned to this and our Congress was also controlled mainly by them, much the same today where so much money is spent in elections. So, now our Supreme Court wants to basically return to the 19th Century. No matter what they claim, Justices of our current Supreme Court want to impose their brand of religion on all of us, ignoring the 1st Amendment.
Armstrong K. (2022 May 6). Draft Overturning Roe v. Wade Quotes Infamous Witch Trial Judge with Long-Discredited Ideas on Rape. ProPublica. Available at: https://www.propublica.org/article/abortion-roe-wade-alito-scotus-hale
Berman A. (2019 May 17). How Gerrymandering and Voter Suppression Paved the Way for Abortion Bans. Let My People Vote. Available at: https://www.letmypeoplevotemovie.com/post/how-gerrymandering-and-voter-s...
Cline A. (2018 Aug 16). Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists. Learn Religions. Available at: https://www.learnreligions.com/jefferson-and-the-danbury-baptists-249666...
Constitutional Rights Foundation. BRIA 12 4 a Separating Church and State. Available at: https://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-13-4-a-separating-church-and-state
Encyclopedia Virginia. Indentured Servants in Colonial Virginia. Available at: https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/indentured-servants-in-colonial...
Garrett-Hatfield L. How Were Indentured Servants Treated by the English? Available at: https://education.seattlepi.com/roles-did-geography-play-mexican-revolution-7006.html
Heyrman C.L. (1997). Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt. The University of North Carolina Press.
Kuhn E. (2022 May 5). Women’s Rights in Early America. Available at: https://www.eleanor-kuhns.com/2022/05/05/womens-rights-in-early-america/
Lange A. (2015 Fall). Women’s Rights in the Early Republic. National Women’s History Museum. Available at: http://www.crusadeforthevote.org/early-republic
Oxner R. (2022 May 5). 78% of Texas voters think abortion should be allowed in some form, UT poll shows. High Plains Public Radio. Available at: https://www.hppr.org/hppr-news/2022-05-05/78-of-texas-voters-think-abortion-should-be-allowed-in-some-form-ut-poll-shows
Political Staff (2022 May 2). Read Justice Alito's initial draft abortion opinion which would overturn Roe v. Wade. POLITICO. Available at: https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/02/read-justice-alito-initial-abor...
Sehat D (2011 Apr 22). Five myths about church and state in America. The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/five-myths-about-church-and-state-in-amer...
Vile JR (2009). Established Churches in Early America. The First Amendment Encyclopedia. Available at: https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/801/established-churches-in-early-america
The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact email@example.com.