Those of us who graduated from college in 1969, as the curtain came down on the cultural/political/sexual/musical revolution that changed America and the world forever – if it did – left the sixties behind long ago. Almost all of us moved on, led a full life, more or less, and retired from that final career in a series of careers that probably had little if anything to do with peace and love and flower-power and changing the world. That was a long time ago. That ended when everyone went home from Woodstock and took a long hot shower, to wash off the mud, and Richard Nixon settled down in the White House. Even the Vietnam War ended, eventually. Where have all the flowers gone? Disco and polyester leisure suits followed, and then grandchildren.
We let that “revolution” go, perhaps because we had won. No one now thinks that war in Vietnam was a fine idea. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 corrected a few racial problems, even if, in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that significant parts of the Voting Rights Act were now invalid, because things had changed. They suggested a rewrite, as if Congress would ever do that. Republicans want us to go back to 1962 or so, because black folks and other minorities keep voting for the wrong people – not them. Now there are all the new state-level rules that will make it hard for those people to ever vote again – but not poll taxes and absurd literacy tests – that would be illegal. Making obtaining the necessary new voter-ID cards an expensive and time-consuming process isn’t illegal – lots of stuff is expensive and time-consuming. Restricting the hours available to vote and not replacing broken voting machines, in certain districts, isn’t illegal either. Times are tough. States don’t have a whole lot of money. This is a prudent use of limited state funds, so they can fix potholes and all the rest. The net effect of all this is to undo what was done in the sixties.
That is a setback, and being resisted now, but abortion is still legal – something won just after the sixties. And no one has a problem with “the pill” any longer – from the early sixties – except the Republicans. They do what they can to make it next to impossible to find a clinic that provides either abortions or access to birth control of any kind.
That will undo what was won in the sixties. Those folks really hated the sixties. The little woman hadn’t stayed home, and happily dusted the furniture and then made dinner for her man, since the days of June Cleaver, and that was the fifties. Where had all the “good girls” gone? Doris Day was still around, as wholesome as ever at ninety-seven. But then she died too. It was over.
It’s never over. Lili Loofbourow explains that:
Shouts broke out on the Alabama Senate floor last Thursday when Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth tried to rush through a motion without a roll-call vote. If that sentence bored you – even with the shouting – you’ve already grasped something basic: The dullness of these procedures is why most of us have trouble understanding them or paying attention, even when there’s cheating involved.
We should try. In this case, the motion would have removed an amendment – supported by some Republicans – to exclude cases of rape and incest from an abortion ban that had already passed the House. Ainsworth believes Americans impregnated by rapists should be made to give birth, so he tried to rush the motion through without a roll-call vote, bending the rules to get his way.
State Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton stalled the attempted circumvention through sheer force of will, shouting his objections until the vote was delayed. But this is not a happy story: The controversial bill ended up passing the Senate on Tuesday night – with no exceptions included – and will go to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk. Its intention is to strip Americans of a constitutional right, on the assumption that a friendly Supreme Court will soon declare that removal legal.
That is the plan:
It will take only one of these abortion bans to survive the ultimate judicial challenge for Americans with uteruses to be forced by the state to carry fetuses against their will. And If Alabama’s turns out to be the one, we’d do well to remember that one link in that chain of events was Republicans trying to proceed without a roll-call vote.
That’s a simple procedural violation, the sort one might hesitate to get too upset over. But those kinds of violations stack up. They stack up until they form a basis for disenfranchising half the country.
And that seems to be the idea:
Alabama isn’t alone. Just a few days ago, Georgia passed a law criminalizing abortions after six weeks, set to take effect in 2020, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed it. It’s a total abortion ban… It’s the most extreme law ever passed, and it’s supposed to be: GOP members across several states have said they’re “excited” to pass illegal laws that defy a settled Supreme Court ruling so that the current court can overturn it. The Georgia bill redefines fetuses as legal persons with rights while, again, stripping the rights and bodily autonomy of citizens who actually exist. Though some activists on both sides want to believe this unlikely, the bill clearly allows for those who actively refuse to give birth to face lifelong imprisonment or the death penalty. Even those who leave the state to abort would be subject to punishment.
Then there’s the Ohio bill, similar in structure and passed in April, which will condemn an 11-year-old child who was raped to forced birth – which must be understood as rape in reverse. Kentucky and Mississippi passed similar bills this year (Kentucky’s was struck down, as was Iowa’s, passed last year).
These bills aren’t just astonishing and punitive and misnamed (the “heartbeat” is not a heart but a collection of cells in the fetal pole that may one day become one). They’re ignorant even of the actual reproductive biology they purport to regulate.
Several would criminalize miscarriages, and one invents a medical procedure whereby ectopic pregnancies – which tend to be fatal – could not be aborted but would be “reimplanted” in the uterus. That is not a medical procedure you can get; it’s a suggestion that doctors experiment on women whose lives are in danger.
It isn’t even that. It was just something to say. It can be ignored:
That is not, at least for the moment, the point. The rights of women and the marginalized seldom are. A law passed to invoke the high court can’t be dismissed as a “strategy” or a “tactic” – the law is exactly what it says. And it was passed to satisfy the beliefs of a minority.
Take Georgia: 70 percent of Georgian voters and 68 percent of American voters don’t believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. It doesn’t matter. That isn’t stopping Georgia’s government.
And that’s the problem:
We’re long past democracy working, even if many have yet to realize it, because so much of its dismantling has been invisible to the public thanks to dark money, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and maneuvers like Ainsworth’s, all of which we’ve been encouraged to consider merely improper.
A long campaign to hobble and constrain our representative government at every turn is now paying off dramatically. For decades, extremists have been seizing control through the kind of procedural malfeasance that gets continually mislabeled as assholery or poor etiquette.
Over and over, Americans have made the mistake of responding to Republican misbehavior by treating each case as an isolated insult to be transcended. The mature thing, we’ve been told, is to “rise above.”
But that’s a trap:
The court has grown even more conservative thanks to another “procedural” violation that was seen more as a rupture with norms than a soft takeover. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold a hearing for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Democrats objected strenuously at the time, but there was nothing much they could do: Thanks to the structure of the Senate, Republicans hold a dangerously durable majority. McConnell took pleasure in this: “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.’ “
And then it was all over:
My theory is that partly because McConnell took obvious pleasure in it, that loss is remembered more clearly as an asshole move than a government-changing upheaval that would cost many Americans their rights.
Republicans have encouraged this perspective: “Get over it” has become a kind of GOP mantra. The opposition is supposed to “get over” everything from Merrick Garland to Russian interference to child separations and plenty more.
That’s smart framing by the dominant party: It encourages a personal response to a public offense. You’re supposed to “get over” Republican overstepping rather than, say, retaliate.
That is clever. This is small stuff. But it adds up:
After decades of accruing small technical advantages, it’s not crazy to say that the modern GOP is on the precipice of achieving one of its highest aims – made possible thanks to some closed polling stations here, a gerrymandered district there, judges confirmed against tradition and precedent, a president who lost the popular vote. Some of these were obvious – and later camouflaged by suggestions that we “get over it” – but the bulk of those strategic advantages were secured more quietly, distributed across statehouses and carried out without arousing too much public alarm, because none of this is what the public wants. It doesn’t matter.
But it does matter:
As the net closes in, we must remember how it was made, strand by strand, by extremists wishing to impose their religious doctrine on a country founded on the separation of church and state. We can be grateful that these laws have so far been struck down in two states thanks to suits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. But there will be more. Stemming the tide would require an absolutely massive outpouring of voters to overcome a deck this stacked – and that alone will not be enough to reverse course. Redundancy is built into this strategy, and the judiciary is immune to those votes. More restrictions will pass. Some will fall. Appeals will be filed. And the Supreme Court, with its new, young, and life-tenured justices, will wait patiently for the chance to subordinate women to fetuses and bring the full power of the state against those who would refuse to comply.
And that is what is happening, except, as the Washington Post reports, that won’t be easy:
An Alabama bill intended to test whether President Trump’s Supreme Court appointees will allow for the banning of abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, threatened Wednesday to reshape the dynamics of the 2020 election.
Democrats erupted with loud and sustained outrage in an effort to reclaim the upper hand on a politically sensitive issue that has recently found them on the defensive after liberal states proposed extending protections for abortions late in pregnancy.
Republicans leaders, by contrast, spent much of the day avoiding questions about the Alabama law, wary of being dragged into a debate over whether to refuse rape and incest victims the option of abortion following forced pregnancies.
Those are the battle lines. Late-term abortions can be gruesome and raise real moral issues, but forcing rape and incest victims to give birth and then raise the child, perhaps giving the father full rights as the father too, seems a bit much – that, and years in jail for driving out of state for the procedure is way out there. Neither side is on the side of the angels here, if there are angels, so it was best to say nothing:
Trump left the topic of the Alabama law unaddressed on Twitter, the White House offered no comment about the measure, and several Republican senators such as Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.), who are facing tough reelection fights, avoided the issue as best they could.
Alabama got rid of the rape and incest exemption – the woman MUST carry the child to term. She has no choice. The government decides. And the deed is done:
Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday evening signed the abortion measure, which is the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. Approved by the state legislature Tuesday night, it provides criminal penalties for any doctor who performs an abortion, unless it is necessary to save the life of the mother. Doctors could be imprisoned for up to 99 years.
Her signature, which had been expected, came after a day in which several of those who have long opposed abortion rights made clear they considered the nature of the Alabama measure political dangerous for Republicans. In past years, even the strongest antiabortion measures had created loopholes for women and girls pregnant due to rape or incest.
That created a bit of a problem for God’s folks:
Pat Robertson, an antiabortion evangelical pastor who ran for president as a Republican in 1988, offered caution by calling the Alabama law “extreme” and saying that he thought it would lose if taken to the Supreme Court in an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
“If they can make our pro-life position about the Alabama bill, rather than our opposition to late-term abortion and infanticide, which they have been supporting, then we are going to be on the defense,” said Ralph Reed, the chairman of the socially conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition, who supports the Alabama bill.
They really don’t want to dismiss rape and incest as no more than small inconveniences that these women shouldn’t whine about all the time. “Just have the kid and shut up” is not a winning massage, however, and they don’t want to lose a key voting bloc:
Democratic strategists argue that the Alabama law will help put the threat to Roe v. Wade more squarely on the agenda in the 2020 election, as a possible rallying point for women and highly educated voters. Suburban women had been a particular target for Democrats even before the abortion measures surfaced.
Those voters may be gone now:
“The Alabama law, and others like it, clearly identify the Republicans as the extreme party on the issue of abortion, even as Republicans try to attack Democrats as being too far left on the issue,” Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, said in an email. “Radical laws like the one in Alabama will keep Republicans on the defensive in terms of being outside the mainstream.”
Democratic presidential candidates echoed a similar refrain. “We will not stand for it,” thundered Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) during a New Hampshire rally. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) called the bill “exceptionally cruel,” while former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke called it “a radical attack on women,” and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called the measure “an abomination.”
Rape and incest are more than small inconveniences, so don’t talk about them, and keep ’em guessing:
During his short political career, Trump has been successful in using abortion to solidify his support among evangelical voters initially skeptical of him. Though he had described himself as an abortion rights advocate for much of his life, he was the first Republican nominee to openly promise to appoint antiabortion justices to the Supreme Court. He said during the 2016 campaign that his appointees would overturn Roe “automatically” if he were elected.
Since then, the connection between Trump and evangelicals has only deepened, according to polls. Evangelicals have been among the most loyal Trump supporters, and White House advisers have taken to praising him as the nation’s “most pro-life” president. As he has pursued reelection, Trump has made the topic part of his campaign pitch.
“Democrats are aggressively pushing late-term abortion, allowing children to be ripped from their mother’s womb right up until the moment of birth,” Trump said last week during a rally in Florida. “To protect innocent life, I called on Congress to immediately pass legislation prohibiting extreme late-term abortion.”
But on Wednesday, Trump did not mention the new legislation in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio that would significantly restrict abortion access. The Trump reelection campaign referred questions about the Alabama bill to the White House, which declined to comment on the bills specifically, leaving little doubt about where they would prefer to fight over abortion in the coming months.
Talk about New York, not Alabama:
“Unlike radical Democrats who have cheered legislation allowing a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth, President Trump is protecting our most innocent and vulnerable,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.
That’s safer than this:
The political impact of abortion tends to be most pronounced when the focus is on how to handle more extreme cases, as a majority of voters take a non-absolutist position on regulating it, supporting some limits but opposing outright bans.
Republicans lost two key Senate elections in 2012 after their candidates, Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana, made comments about pregnancies that resulted from rape. Akin said falsely that women’s bodies could shut down pregnancies that resulted from “legitimate rape,” and Mourdock said he believed “God intended” pregnancies that resulted from rape.
There’s a lesson there:
Twenty years earlier, Democrats also benefited when – after court decisions limiting abortion and the confirmation fight of Justice Clarence Thomas, accused of sexual harassment – a wave of women helped push their candidates to victory in 1992.
After that election, the antiabortion pollster Kellyanne Conway, who is now a top White House adviser to Trump, gave briefings to Republican lawmakers imploring them to treat “rape” as a “four-letter word” and stop talking about it in the context of the abortion debate.
But now that’s impossible. The new Alabama law is defiantly about making women accept rape and incest, and making them bear the child, and liking it, damn it! Otherwise, it’s all about gleefully murdering newborn babies. That will be the discussion for the next eighteen months:
“Both sides are playing to the narrow slice of voters who passionately agree with their extreme positions, and they hope that voters who are closer to the center on abortion will make their voting decision based on other issues,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “It obviously heightens polarization and does nothing to help resolve the issue where most Americans are.”
Dahlia Lithwick puts that this way:
One could feel sorry for Chief Justice John Roberts. He is, after all, caught in an unsightly squeeze play between anti-abortion zealots in Alabama, and slightly less wild-eyed anti-abortion zealots in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and Indiana (the court seems unable to make a decision on whether to grant the Indiana petition it has been sitting on for months now). There’s finally a five-justice majority within striking distance of a decades-long dream to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the anti-choice activists are getting ahead of themselves like slurring drunks at a frat party and making everything more transparently nasty than it need be.
That ruins everything. Now no one knows where this is going. And where did that sixties “revolution” go, the one that we won? Where have all the flowers gone? Oh well, back to work.