In 1973, the Supreme Court opened a can of worms and needs to close it.
Alabama just enacted one of the most restrictive and ridiculous abortion laws of the modern era. Other states are planning to follow suit.
It’s said the reason for these extreme laws is to persuade the United States Supreme Court to review its decision in Roe v. Wade. The hope is that the court will reverse its position on women’s rights and abortion and states like Alabama and Texas (Henry Wade, the defendant in the case, was the district attorney for Dallas County) will be free to return to the good ol’ days of self-righteousness, back-alley providers and blindfolded patients.
This is really a no-win deal for the Supreme Court. Uphold Roe v. Wade and the Bible Belt will go ballistic; reverse and women will justifiably be marching in the streets.
Take your pick.
But there is a third alternative. The court doesn’t need to make any comment on abortion at all. It can simply rule that the federal government does not have any jurisdiction in this area and that regulation of abortion should be left to the states.
Is that going to make everybody happy? Of course not. I am not even sure if it’s going to make very many people happy at all. But the ongoing all-or-nothing battle is futile.
But if the federal government steps out of the picture, it will still be possible for a woman to get an abortion. She might have to travel to do it, which does work a hardship on her, but she can get one, performed by a medical doctor in a clinic or hospital. No back alleys; no blindfolds.
The states cannot prevent this; the U.S. Constitution won’t allow it. As with so many other issues, people often forget that the United States is a federal republic consisting of 50 sovereign states and that the powers of the federal government have limits. But free travel among the states is among those powers.
Because the states have sovereign rights, the laws on a variety of matters vary widely. It’s a poor analogy, but consider casino gambling. It’s illegal in most states, so those wishing to try their luck go to Nevada, Atlantic City, or other states where it is legal. I am not aware of any state that punishes residents that take a trip to Las Vegas and come back. They might tax it, but that’s another matter.
Yes, some states might try to punish those who go to a “sanctuary” state but such laws would get knocked down because they do violate the Constitution. If an abortion was legal in the destination state, the restrictive state could not penalize interstate travel to it.
It’s a sloppy solution but no sloppier than what we have now. The patchwork of state abortion laws is bewildering. There are mandatory parental notifications, waiting periods, limitations on when an abortion can be performed, and more hoops through which a woman must jump.
A number of states have joined Alabama in enacting draconian abortion laws in hopes of getting Roe v. Wade overturned. It’s not a bad idea although there’s nothing in the rules that says a solution can’t work to a woman’s advantage.
After all, the only rational solution is if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. Other than that, accept the fact that history tells us that, legal or illegal, if a woman needs an abortion, she will have one and it’s really none of society’s business.
[Note: After receiving a much-appreciated comment from Chris Crawford, I realized I should make it clear that I understand efforts would have to be made to help women who would have to travel.
For many of them it would be an economic hardship so those of us who believe in a woman’s right to control her own body would need to step up to the plate.
I think of it as a something like the Underground Railroad. This time, though, it would be devoted to help women escape oppression.
I did think about Planned Parenthood but direct involvement on their part could lead to reprisals even more severe than the ones it currently endures. Planned Parenthood is too important for its other women’s health services to risk that.
It would probably have to be a different organization, perhaps with some funding from states that do allow abortions without so many hoops to jump through. Set it up as a 501(c)(3) charity so that donations are tax-deductible and it should be able to raise a decent amount of money.]