Roe v. Wade has been overturned: Now what?
OPINION: What we've all feared has come to pass. But the fight is not over. Once we have allowed ourselves an appropriate period of mourning, we must act. We must organize. We must find those doing the work and support them.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
It appears many of our greatest fears have materialized with the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade. By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court has decided to diminish a woman’s right to have autonomy over her body and reproductive choices.
In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court decided to uphold a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. This decision also eliminates the constitutional right to abortion established by Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, 1973.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the importance and severity of the original 1973 landmark decision Roe v. Wade, the case was brought before the court, which ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s ability and freedom to choose to have an abortion. However, the court also decided that the right to an abortion was not absolute, hence the decades-long effort by Republicans and conservatives to overturn this ruling. Nearly 50 years later, we find ourselves in a Handmaid’s Tale whereby men have decided that women should no longer be allowed to have autonomy over their bodies and various reproductive decisions.
At this moment, the current Supreme Court has already ruled that the government can arrest and jail you without Miranda rights and use your tax dollars to support religion. The court does not seem to be interested in keeping us safe from guns or protecting Americans’ right to vote. However, they do seem interested in making sure women will have to endure unwanted pregnancies with no repercussions for the men involved under any circumstances, including rape and incest. Our democracy is on the precipice of crumbling, and the judicial branch of the American government is contributing to its dissolution.
The outlook indeed looks and feels quite bleak. However, here are a few things we must remember in this moment:
1. The fight is not over. Those who support a woman’s right to choose have lost this particular battle, but the fight is far from over. This country has always been a nation of progress and regress. We are allowed to feel defeated, frightened, angry, confused—all the things. However, once we have allowed ourselves an appropriate period of mourning, we must act. We must organize. We find those doing the work and support them. We must also pay attention to those in power who want to uphold an agenda of exclusion for women, marginalized groups, the LGBTQ+ community, and so many others.
Lest we forget, it is U.S. senators who vote to confirm Supreme Court justices. The framers set up a system of checks and balances and separation of powers between the three branches of government—executive, legislative, and judicial. Therefore, they gave the president the ability to nominate a justice, U.S. senators the ability to vote to confirm said justice, and unelected justices the ability to create precedent for the nation and uphold the Constitution. The work of Supreme Court justices in overturning Roe v. Wade was possible because of Justices Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts—all of whom, with the exception of Chief Justice Roberts, were confirmed with fewer than 60 U.S. Senate votes.
2. Choose your words deliberately. This is not a debate about being pro-choice and pro-life. This is a debate between being pro-choice and anti-choice for women across the country. The Republican Party and right-wing extremists (I guess they are one in the same these days) have chosen to co-opt the language around this debate and have done so with great effect. This debate is not about protecting life; if it were, we would see Republicans voting to end the death penalty, something they refuse to do. We would see Republicans voting to ban assault weapons and strengthen our gun protection laws as urban gun violence and mass shootings continue to touch large and small communities across the nation, something they refuse to do. We would see Republicans fighting for humane immigration policies, but instead, we see them reveling in separating families at the border and allowing desperate refugees to die in the desert or deporting them back to countries where death is imminent.
The party of pro-life the Republicans are not. We must be clear about the decisions being made; they are to deny women the ability to make decisions best for themselves and their families. In a nation whose foundation has been seeded with the guiding principles of patriarchy, this decision follows a long arc of this nation’s founding principles.
3. Follow legal scholars who can help contextualize this moment. It is these individuals who provide us with the history of the struggle and point us in the right direction as we continue to fight. There are so many brilliant scholars who have written about the law in accessible ways or have podcasts for us to better understand this particular moment. I look to Melissa Murray and Elie Mystal, two of the most brilliant legal minds to help me decipher this political and legal moment.
Outside of academia, Murray currently co-hosts the Strict Scrutiny podcast, which breaks down complex legal arguments and debates for a more general audience. You don’t need a law degree to listen, and for that, I am so grateful. Mystal has just recently written a best-selling book, Allow Me To Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution, which is an accessible guide to the reality of what the Constitution is and is not, who it has worked for in the past and where we fit in as Black people.
In the subsequent weeks and months, we will need to reckon with this decision and begin to organize. Our democracy is dangerously close to peril, but we cannot panic. We must use the tools from our ancestors and continue to build a better future in a country that often shows us how little it values us. However, as James Baldwin reminds us, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
Christina Greer is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University, a political analyst at thegrio.com, and the author of “Black Ethnics.” Her research and teaching focus on American politics, black ethnic politics, urban politics, and campaigns and elections.
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