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Friday, December 2, 2022

Smith: Now we’ll learn what pro-life really means

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I will confess to having mixed feelings regarding the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the ruling that essentially overturned the 1973 Roe decision. I believe that abortion is, in general, morally wrong. Also, I think that Roe’s legal reasoning was flawed. However, I believe that it should have remained the law of the land. Bad law can be good public policy, which is what Roe was. (Perhaps senators will now cease the sad charade of asking Supreme Court nominees about “settled law.”)

Of course, the court’s majority in Dobbs did not consult me, so here we are. That leaves us with an obvious question. To borrow from Lin-Manuel Miranda, “What Comes Next?” I believe there are a few things that are all but guaranteed to occur as Republican-led state legislatures follow the court’s lead. First and foremost, thousands more girls and women are very likely to die or suffer substantial medical problems due to DIY abortion attempts. While no one knows for certain whether there will be an epidemic of botched “back alley” procedures, it is inevitable that medical tragedies will dramatically increase.

Second, there will be substantially more children who are born into poverty. That is because this change will almost exclusively affect low-income girls and women. Those who have the financial means will simply cross state lines to have an abortion. Indeed, several companies have publicly stated that they will offer financial assistance to their employees to do so. But what about those who lack such resources? It goes without saying that girls and women of color are far more likely to be affected than white girls and women because the former are more likely to have fewer financial resources, whether personally or via their families.

On a related note, it will be very interesting to see what will happen legislatively. Will the red state legislators who are ostensibly concerned about “life” allocate greater resources for SNAP benefits? Will they pass laws that increase child care dollars? Will they support maternity and paternity leave? Most importantly, will they suddenly expand Medicaid and increase the minimum wage in their states? It’s highly doubtful that any of that will occur to any great degree, which is why I will continue to make a distinction between being “pro-life” as opposed to merely being “pro-birth.”

Obviously, the election of Donald Trump is the immediate precipitator of this decision. He promised to only appoint justices who were committed to overturning Roe; he kept his word. (Apparently, Sens. Collins and Manchin weren’t paying attention.) However, a substantial portion of the blame for the court’s current makeup should be placed at the feet of the “Never Hillary” Democrats from 2016, as well as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for refusing to resign (as President Barack Obama is widely believed to have suggested to her).

The Electoral College is an anachronism that should be jettisoned immediately because it is anti-democratic. However, we must abide by it as long as it stands. Democrats, then, must become substantially wiser — and garner more enthusiasm for the agenda — rather than tilt at windmills like expanding the number of seats on the court. Given that the Republican Party appears to be on the road to disintegrating, one would think that the Democratic Party would be as united as it’s ever been. Instead, they are committed to infighting. And it might be a good idea to offer a strong alternative to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, though it’s a pipe dream to think that any Democrat could defeat Joe Manchin. Alas, it appears that the donkeys can’t get out of their own way.

Finally, I’m hopeful that educational and religious leaders, along with parents, will redouble their efforts to teach the importance of responsible sexual behavior. The best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. While I strongly support Planned Parenthood providing free or low-cost birth control, the best way to reduce unwanted pregnancies is to reduce irresponsible sexual behavior. (As a former teenage parent, I understand the consequences of not doing so.) As is the case with guns in our society, there should be a better balance between asserting our rights and embracing our responsibilities.

If all that fails, at least it will take less time to determine whether Replacement Theory is valid.

Larry Smith is a community leader. Contact him at larry@leaf-llc.com.

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