THE WAR ON WOMEN—AND YOU
A woman’s constitutional right to an abortion rests on a tenuous Supreme Court majority in favor of upholding Roe v. Wade. One retirement among the pro-choice justices while Romney is president and the right to a legal abortion is gone. The Court’s staunchest advocate of personal freedom and reproductive rights, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is also its oldest member. As a 79-year-old cancer survivor, she may not be able to serve through two terms of a Romney presidency.
Priority number one on Romney’s Supreme Court agenda is to overturn Roe. He has said the decision was “one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history.” He has speculated, “If we had justices like Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia, and more justices like that,” Roe would be overturned, and he holds up those staunch conservatives as models for the kind of justice he would appoint. The 2012 Republican Party platform calls for a U.S. constitutional amendment to ban abortion even in cases of incest, rape and threat to the life of the mother. Romney himself has signed on to such extreme positions as outlawing abortion for rape victims and denying them emergency contraception. Ryan, a heartbeat from the Oval Office, believes that doctors who perform abortions to save a woman’s life should be prosecuted. Ryan’s message to a woman, say a rape victim, who has an abortion? “If it’s illegal, it’s illegal.”
Should Romney have the opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice, Roe will without question be overturned. With that, Americans could in the near future face laws that restrict and even outright ban birth control. Romney disavows any interest in outlawing contraception, yet his own actions could set in motion a domino effect that ends in that result.
Here some legal background is necessary. In Roe, the Court found that the right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy, first articulated in 1965 in Griswold v. Connecticut, the landmark case in which the Court invalidated state bans on birth control for married couples. When Griswold’s right to privacy and birth control was extended to single people (in 1972), the Supreme Court essentially said that your sexual freedom is a constitutional right, up there with your right to free speech, a free press and religious liberty. So naturally there is little that gets religious nuts more incensed than the right to privacy. They’re praying for Griswold to be struck down with Roe. Asked about Griswold, Romney—a Harvard-educated lawyer—said, “I don’t believe they decided that correctly.”
If Griswold goes, as it well might when a Romney Supreme Court overturns Roe, nothing stands in the way, constitutionally, of laws against birth control. The question then becomes, would lawmakers dare? At a national level, certainly not. But if you’re single and live in the Bible Belt, you might want to start laying in supplies.
In red states, it’s a near certainty that Republican politicians will impose onerous regulations on birth control. Expect insurers to drop contraception coverage to avoid the harassment of antisex bureaucrats combing through their balance sheets. Don’t expect men and women under the age of 18 to be able to buy condoms legally or get a prescription for hormonal birth control. Laws restricting access to contraception for unmarried adults could even be passed. Think that is out of the question? The 2010 Texas Republican Party platform called for raising the age of sexual consent to 18. The Utah state criminal code defines “fornication”—that is, sex between single people—as a Class B misdemeanor.
More proof that the attack on abortion is a war on birth control comes from the personhood movement—the new frontier of the anti-abortion religious right. Personhood initiatives define “life” as beginning at fertilization—the moment the sperm hits the egg. As the 2012 Minnesota Republican Party platform puts it, an individual’s inalienable right to life begins “when the DNA of Mankind is joined.” Personhood advocates falsely claim that hormonal contraception and the IUD work as forms of abortion. Combine these two notions—no abortion after “life” begins and birth control is abortion—and you end up with abortion bans that treat taking the pill as tantamount to murder.
The Romney-Ryan ticket and the GOP platform have endorsed the goals of the personhood movement. Romney said, a year ago on Mike Huckabee’s Fox News show, that he “absolutely” supports constitutional amendments defining life as beginning at conception. Often Romney parrots the far right’s talking point that “the pill kills” when he calls contraception and the morning-after pill “abortive pills.” Ryan has pushed an even more aggressive agenda by repeatedly partnering with Todd Akin, the representative from Missouri who made headlines on the eve of the Republican National Convention with his comments about “legitimate rape.” The duo co-sponsored a federal personhood bill, which said, “The life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning or its functional equivalent…at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” The 2012 GOP platform calls for a human life amendment, that is, a personhood amendment, to the U.S. Constitution.
Are Romney, Ryan and the GOP gunning for your birth control? You betcha.