Eight days ago, the Supreme Court illegitimately overturned Roe v. Wade. A fanatical Christian fundamentalist majority said Roe was wrongly decided. And women all over the country got the message. That they are not free. That their bodies are not their own. That their destinies would be shaped by the state, the church, by men.
This is a heartbreaking defeat. Let’s not pretty up as something else. Something we can get used to. Something we can find our way around. Society has been transformed. We now live in a society where women are not free and when women are not free, no one is free. When Millions of Women Are Not Safe—There Are No Real “Safe Havens” What Happens to One of Us Happens To All Of Us. What do women in America do today is the 4th of July? It is a farce.
In Texas, because Attorney General Ken Paxton said that abortion providers could be held criminally liable immediately since the state never repealed the abortion prohibitions that were on the books before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, nurses went out to waiting rooms to tell their patients to go home. One woman was on her fourth visit. She’d been too early in the pregnancy for an abortion during the first two appointments, was finally able to show a pregnancy on the sonogram, and came back 24 hours later for her abortion. The day Roe fell. When she was told to go home, she started rocking back and forth, wailing. Clinics around the state describe scenes of complete despair with people screaming, crying, and begging for help.
And did you know the work of abortion funds came to a screeching halt while the staff figured out the legal implications of their work, their leaders fearing jail time if they help women now?
Pharmacists in Texas, fearing legal liability, have already refused to fill prescriptions for Misoprostol, one of the abortion pills, for miscarriage management. If a miscarriage is not managed to a safe completion, women risk uterine perforation, organ failure, infection, infertility, and death.
Already the things we were told that would make a post-Roe world manageable are falling like dominoes, and more are coming. What did people think was going to happen when the full, repressive force of the state can now criminalize everything related to abortion and women’s reproduction? This is why we fought for Roe, why we fought for legal abortion.
In the coming weeks, abortion will become illegal or inaccessible in 22 states. And they are just getting started. What’s coming is fetal personhood, to throw women behind bars for not being good enough host bodies. Banning women from traveling out of state, making them submit negative pregnancy tests. Doctors face felony charges and life in prison for performing an abortion. Women not being able to get cancer treatment, not being able to have their life-threatening ectopic pregnancies terminated, women being trapped in abusive relationships and cycles of poverty, and Trans people facing even more shame and stigma trying to seek abortions. This is a disaster, and we have to face this. We have to face this defeat. We have to take stock of what got us here. We have plummeted to a bottom of a cliff that we have to claw our way up again, while the Christian fascist movement that has been fighting for the fall of Roe for decades is celebrating, busting open champagne, calling for the day that fills so many millions of hearts with terror to be a national holiday. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said the court should reconsider rulings related to contraception access, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriages. This court has revealed itself to be illegitimate. Why should we accept anything it says? Why should we listen to them at all?
I have seen such a fighting spirit in the streets with you this past week. This matters. But I can’t pretend the road ahead won’t be difficult. We are in for the fight of our lives. The enemy seems so daunting, so powerful. The cliff is so high. This ruling goes against public opinion, against the forward motion of history, and the people – however noble our fight has been in the last few months – did not win.
And we don’t have to reach far into history to know what can happen when the road ahead feels too long. When the necessary sacrifices feel too great. We know that this makes people give up and retreat into their private lives, hoping to avoid the worst of it or at least avoid thinking about it. We know it makes people lower their sights. We know it makes leaders change their messaging to make losing seem like winning. We know how people and movements and organizations can turn on each other instead of uniting to defeat a common enemy. We have seen all the ways movements and righteous struggles of the people get pulled off course and even worse, we know how people can be sucked into doing the work of the very oppressor and the very system that has its boots on all of our backs, leaving the people, especially the people who need us the most, out in the dust and alone.
The truth is that every movement with a righteous demand has to deal with defeat. Every movement for justice has faced obstacles that seem insurmountable. And out of this terrible situation, we can wrench a different future. But not as we are now. We are too few. We are too easily set off course. We are too mired in culture and ways of thinking that drag us down into the gutter instead of lifting our sights. As a people we have to change – we have to find our fighting spirit, we have to have strong principles, we have to cast off old prejudices, and we have to be better at debating ideas and dealing with disagreements, there is a lot we have to learn – but we do all this through the struggle and this struggle can transform not only the people who join but all of society and all of the world. We change through the struggle. This country could not come through the civil rights movement unchanged. It couldn’t come through the movement against the Vietnam War unchanged. It couldn’t come through the women’s and gay liberation movements unchanged. This upheaval, this rupture, that rocked us to our core is exactly what the fascist movement had to come back from over the last fifty years and is exactly what they fear happening again. They fear us rising up and they fear us becoming a new people as we do it.
So let’s do it. We can stop them. We can win this right to legal abortion back for the millions of women, girls, and others who cannot be free without it. We can turn this around, not as the people we are now but as the people, we become through this struggle.