Thursday, July 5, 2018

When right-wing evangelicals don't have legal abortion as their punching bag, what then?

July, 2022: 

It's the middle of the second year of Donald Trump's second term.  The US is now allied with Russia and North Korea, and there is a cold war with the rest of the developed world.  Thanks to Russian manipulation and outright hacking of the 2020 election, the GOP now controls the state houses of 48 states, with only New York and California still being marginally held by Democrats.  Poll taxes have been restored throughout the south, and ID cards that are not drivers licenses are no longer valid for voter ID, not that it matters, because the groundwork is being set for permanent Trump family rule, with Ivanka Trump taking on an ever larger role, as her father is now prone to memory lapses and the kind of rages consistent with early stage dementia.  With an overwhelming GOP majority in both houses of Congress now, the legislative branch now served simply as a rubber stamp for Trump family decisions and policies.

The Mueller probe was ended in early 2019, when the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision,  decided that a sitting president could not be indicted for crimes committed before taking office and that state laws that attempted to supersede federal laws could not do so.

Soon after the 2020 election, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suffered a recurrence of pancreatic cancer.  She valiantly held on for one more Court term, but after the election, she succumbed to pneumonia after being hospitalized in December of that year.  Now part of an intractable right-wing Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer, now 83, decided that he did not want to spend the last part of his life writing dissents and he retired in April 2021.    The Democrats offered their customary objections to the inevitable hard-right nominees, but after the disastrous 2020 election, which saw the Kirsten Gillibrand/Kamala Harris ticket fall with the worst electoral result since the George McGovern debacle of 1972, taking dozens of downticket races with it, no one, not even what was left of their own party, takes them seriously anymore. 

The new court's order of business was a Florida law that had been stopped by a circuit court which would declare every fertilized egg a full-fledged human, would require police investigations of all miscarriages, and make an abortion of any kind, even removal of an already-dead fetus, a capital crime with both doctor and woman at risk of the death penalty.  After a contentious debate, which saw Justices Kagan and Sotomayor failing to convince their colleagues that such a law could make a menstrual period a capital crime, since up to 40% of fertilized eggs never implant.

Once the Florida law was upheld, Roe v. Wade became moot in all states except New York and California, because state legislatures elsewhere rushed to implement their own Florida-type laws, knowing that the Court would be friendly to their cause for at least another thirty years.

Following the Florida law's upholding, conservative legislators then set their new goal as repeal of Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized contraception.  Despite heavy advertising by the pharmaceutical industry, the new Court, in an opinon written by one of the new Trump appointees, Amy Coney Barrett, declared that since religious faith supersedes man's laws, and that pregnancy represents God's will, that any attempt to prevent it is against the will of God.  Justice Elena Kagan wrote a passionate dissent invoking the establishment clause, but with a majority of the Court being conservative Christians who believe that the Founders intended this to be a Christian nation, the religious argument prevailed.

The decision was hardly a surprise, since the Court had already upheld a North Carolina law, that had failed to pass the state legislature in 2013, but was revived successfully in 2020 with the new composition of the Supreme Court, declaring Christianity as that's state's official religion.

Returning to July 2018:

Donald Trump is motivated by one thing and one thing only:  adulation.  In the evangelical community, he has found the perfect all-you-can-eat buffet for that kind of adulation.  This community has forgiven him the same sexual peccadilloes for which they had pilloried Bill Clinton 20 years earlier.  They forgive him his greed, his thievery, his enrichment of his family coffers at the taxpayer's expense -- all because he has promised them that he will end abortion once and for all, and gone even beyond Saint Ronald Reagan in that he has said that there should be some sort of punishment for women who have them.

Abortion has been the low-hanging fruit for GOP politicians since the late 1960s.  Most of them have given lip service to opposition to abortion, but until Trump came along, with his insatiable appetite for a constantly-replenishing plate of worship, they all knew that legal abortion was their best friend -- because it gave the so-called "values voters" something on which to focus besides the massive transfer of wealth from those very voters up to people like, well, Donald Trump.

The scenario above could very well happen.  The laws mentioned have already been attempted in various states.  The North Carolina legislature really DID try to get Christianity declared as the official state religion in 2013.  So-called "personhood" laws have been attempted in a number of states.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg can't go on forever.  Neither can Stephen Breyer, who is 78 this year.  It is entirely probable, even likely, that the Democratic Party WILL decide to nominate a Gillibrand/Harris ticket in 2020.  There is no way that such a ticket can win, not with white women in the south and the flyover states unbothered by Trump's misogyny, and especially not when Russian election interference is still going on in 2018.  So it is very plausible that Donald Trump may get to name FOUR Supreme Court justices.

So what then?  With abortion being THE right-wing issue for over forty years, what happens when they get what they want?  What happens if they even get capital punishment for abortion providers and women?  Obviously more women will die from back-alley and self-abortions.  More unwanted children will be born and live miserable lives with parents who don't want them and have no social safety net to provide things like basic nutrition.  Those are the social and public health costs.  But what of those evangelical voters?  Abortion has been their signature issue, and often their sole focus, ever since Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973.  When they get what they want, and when they even get Griswold v. Connecticut repealed, and all of the most-used contraceptives are deemed to be abortifacient (even though they are not), and when young women, their heads shaved to better adhere the electrodes, are shown on Fox News led off to their executions because fertilized egg was found upon microscopic examination of their tampons, what then?  What do the evangelicals want next?