The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will create two Americas when it comes to abortion access — the mostly red states where abortion is illegal in most circumstances, and the mostly blue states where it is mostly available with restrictions. But this sudden cleaving in the United States will go far beyond abortion access, affecting healthcare, the criminal legal system and politics, at all levels, in the coming years.
We can’t know exactly how all of this will change. But we asked a group of historians, legal scholars and women’s health experts what they think will happen to the abortion landscape in the United States, and how that will affect law, politics, healthcare and society. Some thought the reversal of Roe would soothe political polarization by taking abortion out of national politics. Others thought the exact opposite would happen: Abortion would become a front-burner political issue at all levels, pushing our already-extreme polarization to boil over. Still others thought the decision wouldn’t make much of a difference — because aren’t the states and the parties pretty much sorted already?
‘The court’s invalidation of Roe v. Wade will fire the starting gun on yet another wave of overtly violent conflict.’
Aziz Huq teaches law at the University of Chicago and is the author of The Collapse of Constitutional Remedies.
The court’s invalidation of Roe v. Wade will fire the starting gun on yet another wave of overtly violent conflict over the movement of people across borders over the coming years. Although the court’s reasoning embraces the idea of the rule of law, its intervention has the effect of creating predictable risks of violence — over and above the harm that will accrue to women denied medical care — that imperil the rule of law.
Consider, for instance, what happens when states such as Louisiana treat the decision to obtain an abortion as a criminal homicide. Like many other states, Louisiana allows a bystander to “use force or violence or to kill” if they “reasonably believe” it necessary to protect a person. Such “defense of others” provisions in criminal codes, on their face, would allow someone to use force — even deadly force — to stop a woman crossing state lines to secure an abortion. That is, it would be perfectly lawful to draw a firearm on a woman traveling outside the state to get medical care.
Even when the law doesn’t provide an excuse, it’s easy to imagine far-right groups organizing to control the interstate movement of pregnant bodies. Right-wing militias are mobilizing already on the southern border claiming to be on the hunt for trafficked children and promising “no quarter.” Why not on the bridges from St. Louis to East St. Louis, or the highway from Gary, Ind., to Chicago, Ill.?
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