WHAT DID WE EXPECT?
As soon as the Supreme Court announced its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson
Women’s Health Organization, a decision that allowed states, not the federal
government to legislate women’s bodily autonomy and right to choose, those who
support abortion rights took it to the streets. They gathered with am enthusiasm
fueled by outrage that a right established nearly fifty years ago has been snatched
back. They gathered outside the Supreme Court, and at state capitals and state
courts, angrily chanting “we won’t go back”. They have pressured the White House,
imploring President Biden to do something to preserve abortion rights at the federal
level. They have rightfully excoriated Maine Senator Susan Collins (R), who voted to
confirm all three of the most recent conservative justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and
Comey Barret, saying that she believed them when the asserted, under oath, that
they believed that Roe was a precedent that could not be overruled.
I agree that the Dobbs decision was wrong and infringes on women’s bodily
autonomy. But I wonder what those who took it to the streets expected when the
terrible trio joined the Supreme court. Rabid Republicans have been trying to
overturn the Roe decision for decades, mistakenly describing themselves as “pro-
life”. They support life in the womb but not in the world, failing to fund Medicare
expansion, the child tax credit, affordable and quality housing and education, and
other things that support a quality of life for children and their parents. Taking it to
the streets after the fact may be emotionally satisfying and movement-galvanizing,
but it is too little too late. As soon as the three conservative joined the court, Roe
was bound to be overturned. Instead of acting and strategizing, activists are
impotently reacting. The only way Dobbs can be reversed now is to both expand the
Supreme Court and elect people at the state level that will support women’s bodily
The Dobbs decision has racial reverberations. Black women are lower
income than others, and more likely to have abortions, mostly for economic reasons.
Many are mothers of several children and simply cannot afford one more. The
removal of their bodily autonomy has economic consequences for women when
unwanted pregnancies can cause interruptions in education and employment.
While laws exist to prevent discrimination against pregnant women, these laws are
often unevenly enforced, and women of modest means often lack the resources to
bring this discrimination to court. Women of modest means may also face barriers
in traveling to get an abortion in a state that allows them. Missing work, paying for
services and paying for transportation can cost as much as a thousand dollars. Some
employers, like Starbucks, Yelp, Microsoft, PayPal say they will pay up to $4000 for
employees who must leave the state to get an abortion. But do women really want
their employers to know the details of their health status?
Voting has consequences, which seems to be why the Senate has been so
opposed to passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Instead, states have passed
legislation to chip away at voting rights, passing new restrictions, gerrymandering,
and worse. What if the outcry of outrage about finding for Dobbs had been
directed, months ago, toward the Senate’s failure to pass the John Lewis Voting
Rights Act. Then, perhaps, we might be in a better position to preserve abortion
rights, and other rights.
Unfortunately the same women who decry the loss of their
bodily autonomy thought so little of voting autonomy that they failed to turn out in
droves when both the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act
failed in the Senate. Now, Democrats are hoping that the Dobbs decision will
motivate people to get out and vote for Democrats. But Democrats have been asleep
at the wheel, trying so hard to mollify Republicans in the name of compromise that
they’ve turned off those who want more immediate action. President Biden has
been leading the party since January of 2021. Why has nothing been done since
then to take action on abortion rights, especially since we could have expected the
Inaction on voting rights is directly connected to the Supreme Court action to
reverse our abortion rights. And Clarence Thomas has indicated that they won’t
stop at abortion rights. In his concurring opinion, he has indicated that the court
could reverse decisions about contraception, marriage equality, and same sex
relationships. The GBLTQIA community is alarmed, but really, what should they
expect from a court packed with sexual abusers and perjurers who have pledge to
take our country backward?
Too many Democrats have been too silent for far too long. Taking it to the
street in outrage is fine. But we should have been in the streets before votes to
confirm Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Comey Barrett. We were silent and they have
been strategizing to take away our rights. What did we expect?
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author and Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at Cal State LA. Juliannmalveaux.com