Last night I joined some friends for dinner in support of Dining with Friends - a familiar fund raiser in Charleston for Lowcountry AIDS Services. It was just a small group of us, a bunch of attorney friends that make me (reluctantly) put my attorney jokes aside, because they are all what attorneys should be - smart and good and deeply dedicated to fairness. One friend couldn't make it - she works in the Public Defender's Office, defending crack addicts and murderers, and is one of the most forthright and compassionate individuals I have ever known (I've even forgiven her for being a Republican). Another has probably defended every woman who has been abused or battered within a 100-mile radius of Conway, SC...until she burned out. She's also Chair of the Lowcountry Aids Service Board of Directors, not because she has deep pockets, but because she's effective and smart and generous in every important way - here it was LAS' big night, and instead of hanging out South of Broad at a street party, or filling up on free champagne and cake at the Maritime Center, she was sitting with a small group of us rambling about all sorts of stuff. Another friend at our dinner is constantly going up against bad employers and the federal government for not being terribly nice or fair (imagine that!) to their employees. Gender inequities inflame her, as they should - actually, all types of inequities inflame her.
I love getting together with this group - I completely step out of my world and into another one - and it makes me want to apply to Law School right away, immediately, and become an environmental lawyer - with a Ph.D. in the environmental sciences and a law degree, perhaps then I could help the planet out a little, or at least put a few litterers away for life...I always walk away from this group wanting to do much more than I do on a daily basis to improve the planet. Last night, one of my friends mentioned that she secretly (now not so secretly) wants to be a state senator. Now, this is a group that jumps into action without hesitation - so within a few minutes we were organizing the campaign and writing speeches and...making sure that there were no skeletons in her closet that we couldn't talk ourselves out of in a room full of people. Finally the story came out - but her skeleton didn't phase us - I mean Bill had Roger, and Jimmy had Billy and G.W. had...well, G.W. has himself. We laughed as we organized the campaign, joking but not joking - and I couldn't help but feel that this evening my friend said outloud something that she'd secretly been thinking about for years. The funny thing is that when we were thinking about how to get money for this campaign, a friend's spouse who is a chemical engineer said that we should start collecting wax myrtle berries at the end of the summer and make candles out of them to sell. That was one of the funniest things I'd heard in a long, long time - we estimated that it would take about a million berries to make 4 candles, and at $7.99 a candle...well, you get the picture. The conversation then took a turn - to cheap labor, illegal immigrants, the need for a fair wage, and the possible annexation of Mexico in leiu of the Great Wall of Texas. It's a group that rarely has silent pauses or is in search of strong opinions.
So at the end of the evening, I came home and was still awake and looking for something to read - so I grabbed the first thing that I could put my hands on, which was the June issue of The Atlantic which has a feature article titled "The Day After Roe" (by Jeffrey Rosen). All I can say is this: READ IT. It's basically a hypothetical article on how the different States, the White House, Congress, and the Courts would reacte if Roe was overturned. Now, Rosen starts out by saying that he doesn't necessarily think Roe will get overturned (interestingly, he doesn't think that Chief Justice Roberts will side completely with the anti-Roe justices) but this is chilling:
"The day after Roe fell, of course, abortion would be neither legal nor illegal throughout the United States. Instead, the states and Congress would be free to ban, protect, or regulate abortion as they saw fit. But in many of the fifty states, and ultimately in Congress, the overturning of Roe would probably ignite one of the most explosive political battles since the civil-rights movement, if not the Civil War."
I couldn't possibly go into the entire article - it's long and it's detailed. The author's also not trying to immediately scare us into thinking that choice won't be available - he states:
"Still, if a national referendum was held the day after Roe fell, there's little doubt that early-term abortions would be protected and that later-term abortions would be restricted. But the U.S. Constitution doesn't provide for government by referendum....the moderate national consensus about abortion might not be reflected in law for years to come, and the political landscape would be transformed beyond recognition."
A few things I learned:
- Eleven states already have laws on their books that would ban abortion through pregnancy without making exceptions for threats to a woman's health (some have narrow exceptions). In seven of these states, abortion bans have never been blocked by state courts, and could be immediately enforced.
- These laws have nothing to do, in reality, with the number of people that actually support or oppose these policies. Rosen gives the South Dakota example: in a poll taken after their recent abortion ban passed, 57% said they would vote to repeal the ban while 33% would uphold it. Moral to the story according to the article: "...you have an extreme minority who came to dominate the legislature and drank their own Kool-Aid"...the South Dakota governor's approval rating has dropped 12 points since the ban. This will be the Red State dilemma.
- Even without Roe v. Wade, ~23 Blue States would still have secure policies in place protecting a woman's right to choose - six of these states protect choice throughout pregnancy. What this also means: poor women living in Red States without the money to travel to a Blue State would have little choice at all.
- If Roe were overturned, it could result in a democratic House and Senate after the 2008 elections - and a new version of Roe v. Wade, called something else, would surface. If there is also not a Republican President (thus less liklihood of a veto), then this new and revised version would support choice. If Roe is repealed in June 2007, then it will undeniably be the central issue in the 2008 Presidential Campaign - and the democrats would benefit.
Now, there's alot more in this article...like this statement:
"The moment television begins showing arrests of illegal abortion doctors - or broadcasting stories of women dying from infections contracted during botched illicit abortions - the political framework of the debate will be transformed."
So...does this not sound familiar? AREN'T WE BEYOND THIS? Could not this statement have been written years ago, when I was growing up as a young girl in Charlottesville, Virginia? At the end of this article, all I could think was "here we go again - women are being used as a sacrificial political lamb." If Roe gets overturned and while the States and the Courts and the White House and Congress are trying to sort it all out, while elections favor democratic hopefuls - how many women will pay the price? Why, again, will the women without financial resources pay a higher price? When will this end? When I was 13 and my brother was 16 or 17, he dated the daughter of the only physician in Charlottesville that performed legal abortions. I remember stories of bricks being thrown through the windows of their home and his office, and constant threats to his family.
We simply can't go there again.
So...thank God for gardens and dining with opinionated friends....and for escapes that each and everyone of us needs. Read the article....and plant roses. This morning I noticed that Mermaid (a 1918 species rose) had literally exploded with blooms. This rose is a climber, very thorny, vigorous - not for the faint-hearted rose grower. But boy is it gorgeous.