Yesterday I put the TV on at about noon as usual because I like to watch something while I eat lunch. The CBC was showing live coverage from outside the American Supreme Court building because the court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade had just been officially released, and many people had already amassed in response. Most of the crowd were carrying signs of protest, defiance, and outrage, but many also held placards celebrating that “children” would no longer be murdered. I don’t know if violence ever broke out, but there was a high wire fence around the building to protect those inside just in case. Remember, this is America where they just love a good fight.
Suhana Meharchand interviewed several people over the next 30 minutes as the network waited to air Joe Biden’s live response at 12:30. The first person she spoke with was an American constitutional lawyer who elaborated on the legal implications of the decision. The attorney’s initial point was that this is the first time in American history that an established legal right has been wholly taken away from a group of people, and that she feared this set a very dangerous precedent which, given the current make-up of the court, will almost certainly lead to others losing rights in the near future. Her guess was that the legality of same-sex marriage would be the first to go. When asked about the possibility of this decision being overturned, she suggested that any such scenario could only play out very far in the future given the relative youth of the justices, and the fact that they are appointed for life. Needless to say I was not cheered by her appearance.
Next came an interview with a CBC reporter who specializes in Canadian health care. There are 13 trigger states which already have laws banning abortion on the books, and these laws either came immediately into effect yesterday, or shortly will. Three of these state – Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Michigan – either touch on, or are very close to, the Canadian border. Meharchand asked the reporter if Canadian hospitals and abortion clinics are prepared, or even able, to help women from these states who will now be forced to cross the border to get their procedures done. The reporter said there is certainly a will to assist these woman, but that facilities are absolutely stretched to the limit. Abortion clinic quotas are more than filled by Canadian women, and procedures in hospitals across the country are already running woefully behind because of Covid.
Then Joe Biden came on. I know he is somewhat addled and more than a little doddering, but I think his heart is in the right place, and he is still 1,000 times better than Trump. It was clear as Biden spoke that he is as disheartened and appalled by this decision as most of us are, and he laid the blame squarely at Trump and the Republicans feet because the three deciding justices were all put in during Trump’s presidency. He asked people to please not react to this decision with violence, and reminded them that there is a democratic, peaceful way to ensure that women regain the right to safe and timely abortions – by voting in pro-choice representatives to the house and senate this coming November. Legislative bodies are there to enact laws which reflect the will of the people, and a majority of Americans feel that women should have the right to choose. It was good that he ended on a positive, pro-democratic note, but it was clear from his word choice and demeanour throughout the speech that he feels this decision is a major step backwards.
It is hard for me to put into words how elementally shaken I am right now. This decision was largely fuelled by Republicans pandering to a rabid, fundamental Christian base which has long wanted its will and moral precepts forced on the country at large. The risk they run in allowing a vocal religious minority to hold such sway is that they could very well end up turning into a theocracy. The originalists on the Supreme Court justified their decision to overturn Roe by saying that the right to abortions has no basis in law because it is not mentioned in the Constitution, even though it is clear from previous public statements made by all five of the deciding justices that they personally oppose abortion on religious grounds. They hold up the Constitution as the final arbiter to disguise their own Christian bias. Yet Jefferson, Adams, and Madison, all of whom had a hand in drafting the Constitution, wrote explicitly and at length about the absolute necessity for a separation of church and state. The hypocrisy, or at least the self-serving nature of such cherry picking by these justices is reprehensible. They are not jurists, they are holier-than-thou bullies who are using their power to subvert the will of the people while furthering their own moral perspectives and objectives. Shame!
I signed a petition yesterday urging our government to strengthen Canada’s laws protecting a woman’s right to choose. I think it is highly unlikely that such a draconian slashing of abortion rights will happen here, but it never hurts to shore up the defences. We share an incredibly long border with the U.S., and we are bombarded by their culture daily. The people celebrating the overturning of Roe have been chipping away at it since it came into effect almost 50 years ago. It may be the case that anti-abortionist up here are taking notes from their play book, and have already started planning strategies for a similar long-game in Canada. We must stay vigilant.