Protesters at the State Capitol on Tuesday, May 3 (Photo by Jana Birchum)
My earliest political memories as a child are Vietnam and Watergate; for my son’s generation, it was Bush versus Gore, 9/11 and Iraq. We are fully aware that our nation and its leaders can do bad and evil things and should not be trusted to learn from their mistakes. But neither me nor anyone younger than me really remembers what life was like before Roe vs. Wadewhile every month, in every city, one could hear about a person who, unsustainably pregnant, tried to induce an abortion and died.
What I remember is that adults, eventually including myself, tended to argue about whether abortions should be harder to get than they were, and whether deer went “too far” and if the sequel Casey decision amending deer made better or worse. It was a question that animated people, including those close to me, who otherwise didn’t really participate in politics or claim to understand it. Growing up in the 1970s in Reagan country, abortion was not yet as problematic as it would become, but was simply part of a larger narrative of the nation’s changing morality, like smoking drugs or not being straight all the time. Inevitably, there would be a very special episode of a Norman Lear sitcom that we would find grumpy and uncool when we were teenagers. (Maude Findlay, played by Bea Arthur, had an abortion on television in November 1972.)
Today, those other harbingers of Our Declining Values would barely get Fox News Nation out of bed, but abortion has become an incredibly potent fetish among a fairly small and increasingly undeniably frightening group of Americans. In the three days, as of this writing, since Blake Lively’s Met Gala cosplay as Lady Liberty was interrupted by the screams of naked Lady Justice, I’ve seen a lot of people on social media and in my inbox misunderstand and prognosticate on this. Yes, there are certainly people who would like to keep the ball rolling and undo a bunch of Supreme Court liberalizing precedents until Brown v. Commission, just like some people think that Donald John Apesh*t Trump is still the US President. That doesn’t mean they can, just that they want to.
Stupid Games, Stupid Prizes
The draft notice leaked by Judge Sam Alito, and the clearly coordinated GOP spin around this leak, provide some early talking points to that effect on rights that aren’t listed, words that aren’t in the Constitution, all that nonsense. But perhaps the dumbest and nastiest line in the draft advisory – which I think Alito probably leaked himself – is: “Far from achieving a national settlement of the abortion, deer and Casey have inflamed the debate and deepened the division.” On their own, they did it! People would have all agreed with the way Americans self-regulate and self-attribute their sexual agency if it there was no interference from the Supreme Court!
The events of this week are not only the culmination and intersection of opposing forces of nature, propelling us above the great Circle of Life; they’re the culmination of what’s essentially a scripted reality show that’s been going on for 50 years. The American political right has become completely beholden to the votes and the money of people who, for reasons we can safely assume to be false if not downright disturbing, care about this issue, this saga, this story, this great adventure more than any other. They were willing to ignore Apesh*t’s rich white libertinism and clear patterns of deviance because they knew he would appoint judges who would topple deer. Mitch McConnell, who doesn’t care the least bit about the innocent pre-born and doesn’t even try to fake it, handled the process of appointing these judges, by any means necessary and without any shame, because he knew that it was the most important part of his job description, bar none.
What we’ll know before too long is if “ending abortion” is enough to appease these monsters or if they’ll want more, and if the latter, do they have the energy and reach to to succeed. I don’t pretend to know what will happen next, but I think we need to be clear about what just happened: after decades of effort devoted exclusively to “inflaming” this problem (I mean, seriously, Sam, fuck you), being willing to let others slide, and waiting for their opposition to tire and lose sight of themselves (which of course we did), the anti-choice cult achieved its long-standing goals that nearly all Americans find objectionable, about a decade later. has already exercised its maximum power to expel abortion patients and providers from red states. Would you really want to be in their place?