Roe v. Wade is dead.
It is not as though we did not know or expect the US Supreme Court to eliminate the right to abortion. We were warned in February when a draft opinion outlining their plan was released. Hundreds of women’s rights, civil rights, and health organizations responded with anger and dismay. Rallies were held, money was raised, and first-person narratives recalling the horrors of a pre-Roe past flooded Op-Ed pages everywhere. Yet there was in some quarters, a faint hope that the unprecedented leak would serve a higher purpose, that public outcry over the draft opinion might, in some way, stave off disaster.
We know now what a false hope that was. The ruling on Friday is a direct assault on women’s bodily autonomy and the capacity to order their own lives. In the dissent, Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor spell out the blatant reality: “Those responsible for the original Constitution, including the Fourteenth Amendment, did not perceive women as equals, and did not recognize women’s rights. When the majority says that we must read our foundational charter as viewed at the time of ratification (except that we may also check it against the Dark Ages!), it consigns women to second-class citizenship.”
The ruling is an insult to religious communities (including Unitarian Universalists, Jews, and others) who do not share Catholic and Evangelical Christians’ definition of life as beginning at conception. It enshrines in law a cruel, misogynistic, and theocratic vision of women. People who get pregnant are not incubators, meant to increase “the domestic supply of infants.” We are human beings with dreams, plans, families – and rights. As of Friday morning, our right to choose has disappeared, and still other rights are under threat.
If we know nothing else, we understand the slippery slope this decision creates. The legal foundation under which Roe v. Wade was decided is also the foundation for rights such as the right to contraception, interracial marriage, and same-sex marriage. Though Justice Samuel Alito went to great pains to say that Friday’s ruling related only to abortion, a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas was much more direct: in his mind, the court should review all such previous decisions – an open invitation for regressive states to file lawsuits that would allow such review.
BUT WE WILL NOT GO BACK.
Our work at Starr King – to educate Unitarian Universalist and other progressive religious leaders for society – has never mattered more. The fight to protect and to regain our rights – all of them – has entered a new phase, and the battle will be long. For those of you who study here, we need you. We need your courage, your insight, and your commitment. For those of you who love this school, we need your support more than ever, and not just your financial support. It will take all of us to interrupt this regressive tide and redirect the moral arc of the universe toward justice.
Today’s ruling was not a surprise, but it is an outrage. So today, let us take time to grieve, and to rage, and to mourn – so that tomorrow, we can rise, and once again take up the work of justice and freedom for all people.