Photo by Anna Hecker on Unsplash

High Court Protects Zygote, Not 12-Year-Old Rape Victim

Brave members of Congress could still preserve abortion rights and voting rights, two hugely important matters to millions of Americans, even though the Supreme Court upheld draconian, racist changes to voting laws and is poised to scrap Roe v. Wade, despite a poll that shows that 69 percent of Americans said they would not like to see the Supreme Court overturn a woman’s right to have an abortion.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted last week, showed that 54 percent of Americans said the Supreme Court should uphold Roe, while 28 percent said the court should overturn it and 18 percent had no opinion. And a CNN survey in January found that 69 percent of Americans said they would not like to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe, compared to 30 percent who said they would.
So what? So nothing, so far.
The Supreme Court is expected to eliminate the right to abortion, and return the matter to state governments. It would mean that an hour-old zygote is protected but not the 12 year old girl who was raped and made pregnant. Already at least 10 states have outlawed abortion even in cases of rape or incest.
The expected ruling reflects the viewpoint of a minority of Americans who believe the unborn are more important than the people who give birth, even if a woman is violently raped and become pregnant, even if a direct family member sexually assaults and impregnates a young woman.
Those most effected by a ban on abortion would be the poor and working class women who live in a state like Texas where abortion would be illegal, but can’t afford to go to another state where abortions remain legal. The victims will be the pregnant women who are denied parental leave, the children who cannot benefit from subsidized child care or other safety nets that are typically opposed by the same politicians who oppose abortion. A 2014 study found that three in four women who end pregnancies are low-income and almost 50 percent live below the poverty level. The study found that 55 percent are unmarried or do not live with the father.
The expected Supreme Court rule would allow states to ban abortion from the moment of conception and “include respect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development.” It’s no stretch to believe that forms of birth control that prevent implantation of fertilized eggs could be considered an illegal abortion. Could women who practice birth control be treated as killers? In a time of increased, right wing evangelical activity, it would be no surprise if support grows to mirror the 1968 papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which still defines official church doctrine, that the use of artificial contraception to avoid pregnancy is a moral offense.
A growing list of states have enacted drastic anti-abortion laws, in advance of the Supreme Court ruling. Some permit doctors to end a pregnancy only if the woman’s life is in danger. That means that women will have to wait until they are seriously sick before they could have an abortion, a point at which their lives will be in grave danger.

Already at least 10 states have outlawed abortion even in cases of rape or incest.
The most dire anti-abortion laws are forming in the red Republican states but living in a blue Democratic state is no guarantee that the increasing wave of far right conservative voters will not gain sway in blue states and force politicians to adopt anti-abortion positions.
The changes to voting rights and abortion laws in direct contradiction to the majority of Americans reflects just how the far right minority has been empowered and why the trump election was so diabolically important to walking back decades of civil rights. Without trump, there would be no Neil Gorsuch, no Brett Kavanaugh and no Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court and that means no majority of conservatives and no changes to laws that effect the lives of millions of Americans. And voting rights and abortion are just the opening volleys to what threatens to be a wholesale dismantling of progressive social movements that also have the support of millions of Americans, including same sex marriage, protection of people in the LGBTQ community, freedom to use birth control contraceptives, the Affordable Care Act, keeping a separation between church and state, to name a few popular issues that could be destroyed. Already several states are banning gender-affirming health care for children, and in Missouri, a proposed law could extend the denial to transgender adults.
The way to fight back and to pass federal laws that bypass a Supreme Court ruling is to eliminate a little known and lesser understood congressional vehicle known as the filibuster. A majority of the Congress has opposed eliminating the filibuster, notable centrist Democrats Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., claiming its removal would take away a major tool to protect the minority and avoid the tyranny of the majority in Congress. But if the filibuster remains, there may be nothing worth protecting.
It takes a simple majority of the votes in the Senate to pass legislation. But the filibuster embodies the longstanding tradition of allowing unlimited debate and unlimited delays in votes in the Senate. Under the rule, it takes 60 votes to end a filibuster, a rule with the odd name of cloture.
Without the 60 votes, a vote can be delayed indefinitely, even if the majority of the Senate supports a bill, which is what has happened when the Republican minority used the filibuster to avoid a vote on bills proposed by the Democratic majority to repeal new, onerous, ominous and discriminatory limits on voting. Currently, the 50 Democratic Senators have enough trouble agreeing among themselves; forget about getting 10 Republicans to jump ship to total the needed 60 votes to end the filibuster rule.
The filibuster upholds the rights of the minority, and in these times, that means reactionary politicians who answer to the relatively small minority, the far right base, whose power is way out of whack with their numbers. At the moment, the filibuster protects the Republicans, with 50 seats, who are outnumbered by the razor thin Democratic margin that includes 48 Democrats and two independents, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who both caucus with the Democrats. The vice president only casts a ballot in event of a tie vote.
But be careful what you wish for because if the filibuster is revoked, and the Republicans gain the majority in Congress, which is frighteningly likely, than the Democrats will lose a critical tool to fight back against the oppressive and dangerous Republican agenda. And now we are talking about the very real possibility that the Republicans will end the democratic system.
One idea floated to make the Supreme Court more responsible to the majority of Americans is to elect members of the court. In the Senate, this accountability is in the form of elections every six years and in the House, every two years. But Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, in an original effort to protect the court from the perils of elected office. The Supreme Court is meant to exist outside of politics. We’ve seen how that hasn’t worked in a court that is increasingly partisan.
To make a very long and wonky story short, the filibuster is why a Supreme Court ruling can stand even though it is rejected by the majority of Americans. If Roe v. Wade is reversed, as expected, it will rank toward the top of the worst rulings by a Supreme Court. Others that were equally horrible include:
* Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857): The ruling held that African Americans, whether free men or slaves, could not be considered American citizens.
* Buck v. Bell (1927): In an 8–1 decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the court upheld the forced sterilization of people with intellectual disabilities “for the protection and health of the state.”
* Korematsu v. United States (1944): The racist decision allowed the internment of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II, under the guise of protecting national security.
* Plessy v. Ferguson (1896): The “separate but equal” ruling upheld state segregation laws, opening the door to decades of Jim Crow laws in the wake of the post-Civil War reconstruction era.
* The Civil Rights Cases (1883): The court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and held that the government could not halt discrimination in businesses and public accommodations.
* Bowers v. Hardwick (1986): In one of the earlier assaults on gay rights, the court upheld a Georgia sodomy statute that criminalized sexually active gay and lesbian relationships.
* Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918): In their great wisdom, the court ruled that Congress could not ban child labor in intrastate commerce.
* Kelo v. City of New London (2005): Private property was the target when the court ruled that taking land from one private party to give it to another is a valid public use.
* Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Commission (1992): The court decided that the state could not stop a developer from building homes on South Carolina beaches, despite the large degradation to the environment.
* Bush v. Gore (2000): The Supreme Court’s five Republican appointees stopped the recount of contested ballots in Florida, handing the election to George W. Bush.
* Citizens United v. FEC (2010): Black money in elections got its biggest boost when the court held that political donations are speech protected by the First Amendment, opening the floodgates to unlimited personal and corporate donations to “super PACs.”

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Phil Garber

Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer