About a decade ago, I attended a meeting of the Colorado Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice where the speaker chided the members for continuing to advocate for the right to abortion when it so clearly was no longer necessary.
The issue was settled, the speaker insisted to the crowd of clergy members and lay women. Get over yourselves. Move on.
Coalition members were gobsmacked.
Did this woman and so many others who had come of age in the era after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 have the slightest idea how fragile women’s rights were? Were they that clueless?
So, here we are in 2022 feeling a lot like the women of Afghanistan, who have been ordered back to their burqas by the Taliban after two decades of relative freedom. How foolish we were to think our rights could not be revoked.
America’s Taliban now controls the U.S. Supreme Court, and women are justifiably terrified.
The leaked draft opinion on the court’s ruling expected next month on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization would overturn Roe v. Wade and trigger an avalanche of repressive measures designed to control women’s lives across at least 26 states.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has already foreshadowed further restraints by refusing to respond to questions last week on whether he would sign into law a measure to ban contraception.
The state already has a law poised to go into effect if Roe is overturned that would outlaw abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy except to save a woman’s life or in cases where “a formal charge of rape has been filed.”
Under the law, if Mississippi doctors perform abortions for any other reason, including cases of incest or severe fetal abnormality, they could be prosecuted and face 10 years in prison.
Meanwhile, a movement is afoot in the state to expand the law to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy or in cases of rape.
In the 21st century, just as in the 19th, Mississippi stands proudly in the vanguard for its celebration of tyranny and human bondage.
Despite the relentless political spin, abortion bans have nothing to do with life and everything to do with controlling women.
If anti-abortion activists sincerely cared about life, they would enact programs that are proven to drastically reduce unwanted pregnancies. They would be demanding universal health care, affordable child care, support for the world’s exploding population of refugees, decent wages and an end to the death penalty.
In Judaism, life is believed to begin when an infant takes its first breath. In the religion of anti-abortion activists, that’s when the commitment ends.
Again, consider Mississippi.
The nonprofit America’s Health Rankings puts the state at the bottom in women’s, infants and children’s health. It’s also 50th in infant mortality, child mortality, low birthweight, neonatal mortality and preterm birth.
It ranks 51st in average wages (behind all other states and the District of Columbia).
And its devotion to the death penalty is absolute. It is so fervent it includes fighting to keep a man on death row years after he was exonerated through DNA testing. The lawyer for wrongly convicted Sherwood Brown summed up the situation saying, “The state was trying to find something to incriminate Sherwood, but every time they did, it kind of stumped them deeper.”
Brown managed to live entirely in spite of the state’s relentless efforts to kill him.
For Colorado women who saw Gov. Jared Polis recently sign into law a bill that states that no government entity may “deny, restrict, interfere with or discriminate against an individual’s fundamental right to use or refuse contraception or to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion,” the culture of Mississippi may seem strange, foreign, barbaric even.
We would be utterly wrong to succumb to such naivete.
After all, Colorado Republicans debated House Bill 1279 to guarantee women’s right to reproductive health care for 24 hours. It was one of the longest filibusters in the state’s history.
The state Republican Party selected Kristi Burton Brown, who cut her political teeth by sponsoring an amendment to grant embryos personhood and outlaw abortion, as its party chair.
And all three Republican members of Colorado’s congressional delegation have called upon the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse Roe.
The leaked draft Supreme Court opinion suggests they’re not outliers.
The ground beneath us has shifted. Hard-won basic human rights are under threat.
The logic used in Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion on Dobbs could be the basis for outlawing same-sex marriage, a range of gay rights protections and contraception.
With an overwhelming conservative majority on the Supreme Court, all manner of ruthless judicial activism is possible. No precedent is sacred.
What once was considered little more than cheap political grandstanding is on the precipice of becoming the law of the land.
Back in 2016, when so many Trump voters said they wanted to blow up the system, we wondered what that might look like.
This is it.
Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.