On Losing ‘Roe’

Last Friday, in a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court struck down the ruling Roe v Wade via its decision on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Across the country, understandably, frightened and angry young women are protesting; screaming and weeping.

The organized, institutional, heavily funded US feminist movement, which for fifty years has predicated American feminist ideology, and its own donor appeals, on the foundation of defending Roe, is calling this ruling a travesty.

I am going to argue that the defeat of Roe is not in fact a defeat of women but a necessary evolution in the law, in response to women’s ascendancy in America over the last fifty years.

Before I do, though, I warn that the Roe decision is being used as a pretext for a campaign to delegitimize the Supreme Court. This anti-SCOTUS campaign fits in as part of the larger war on our democratic institutions, about which I have been writing in The Bodies of Others, and elsewhere.

Members of the Court are being abused, intimidated and threatened in ways that are the definition of “un-American.”

Before the ruling, protestors “doxxed” members of the Court (exposed their personal information) and picketed their homes. In May, 2022, the then-White House Spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, refused to condemn those who disclosed the private information of the Justices. [https://www.foxnews.com/media/psaki-disturbs-twitter-her-disgusting-response-leftists-doxxing-supreme-court-justices]

This past week, after the Dobbs decision, the DNC chairman, Jaime Harrison, sounding just like an opposition leader in a full-on pre-1989 Soviet-satellite nation, called the Supreme Court “illegitimate”. [https://www.nationalreview.com/news/dnc-chair-attacks-illegitimate-supreme-court-over-ruling-overturning-roe/.]

On Twitter, the Justices who decided in favor of overturning Roe are being doxxed again, this time along with posted instructions for making pipe bombs.

JUST IN: Tik Tok users are posting Supreme Court Justice Addresses online, with the most popular comment about pipe bombs. pic.twitter.com/fIkMvm0lTS

— BNN Newsroom (@BNNBreaking) June 26, 2022

The White House itself used language that departed from the important American tradition of reverence for the Supreme Court as the legitimate arbiter of the Constitution, an authority that we accept whether we like the Justices’ individual rulings or not: our own President demonized the Supreme Court’s Justices from the White House bully pulpit, calling them perpetrators of “an extreme ideology,” and damning the Dobbs decision as “a tragic error” [https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/06/24/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-supreme-court-decision-to-overturn-roe-v-wade/]:

“Make no mistake: This decision is the culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law.  It’s a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court, in my view.”

Moving on from my noting a red-light-flashing assault from many fronts on yet another aspect of our tripartite system, on our traditions and on our rule of law — is Dobbs really a “tragic mistake”?

Is it indeed, as liberal feminist narratives have held for five decades, the outcome of attacks on the nation’s women as a whole, by sadistic, misogynist, paternalistic old white men?

Or does the end of Roe represent something very different?

I believe that the Dobbs decision was an almost inevitable reaction to devastating overreach by the organized pro-choice movement, especially in the last twenty years.

I also believe that it represents not a defeat of women, but rather that it is a testament to the reality of the evolution of women’s growing authority and power in this country.

Before you throw your computer across the room, or doxx or deplatform me (hard to do, as I‘ve been deplatformed five times already), please hear me out.

I am pro-choice, in the sense that in no way, hard as I have tried, can I see how women can have basic equality or self-determination in any society if they cannot choose to terminate a pregnancy within the first trimester. I’ve explained my tortured feelings about this issue in a 1995 essay that has been widely reproduced over the years, Our Bodies, Our Souls: Rethinking Pro-Choice Rhetoric. [This essay is elsewhere in this Substack, and also here: https://lib.tcu.edu/staff/bellinger/abortion/wolf-our-bodies.pdf]

In this essay, I warned that while I was pro-choice, I also recognized that the death of a fetus is a real death, and that an abortion always represents a loss’; that we as feminists risked becoming increasingly hard-hearted and soulless if we continued to embrace a discourse in which a fetus was merely “a clump of cells”, if we persisted in pretending that abortion was spiritually meaningless, and if we continued to posit that a second- or even third trimester abortions were nothing more bloody or catastrophic than “personal choices”.

I also warned that such mechanistic, amoral language and such increasingly monstrous policies would eventually also create a political scenario that in time was certain to lose: these policies would eventually lose us the reasonable middle: the majority of the country that supports abortion rights in the first trimester but that withdraws its support progressively as pregnancies progress.

I don’t mean always to be Cassandra. It is a drag. But nota bene, that is exactly what has come about in this past week.

Today, a woman — a woman — posted to me on Gettr: “I have always been on [board] with 1st trimester abortions. But when they started pushing for late term abortions I could no longer go along with that. So if I am forced to choose full term abortions or no abortions, I am going to side with no abortions. The left just had to keep pushing and that is where I draw the line. I am hoping that we can come together and dial back the insanity.”

I agree with this Everywoman. But organized feminist pro-choice activists increasingly ignored those millions who shared this woman’s reasoned position, and did so to their own destruction.

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