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  • Georgia Bennett

When “Never Again” Happens Again

In April 2022, rumours of a leaked document from the American Supreme Court rescinding abortion rights began. On Friday the 24th of June, this hellish nightmare became a reality and Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision on the issue, was overturned. The effects of this took place immediately, with highly-restricted states like Texas already seeing the birth of post-Roe vs. Wade babies.

Artwork by Sophie Pywell (Instagram: @s.louise.pywell)

In this rapid whirlwind of events, perhaps the most prominent question on people’s minds has been: why is this happening in Biden’s America? How is it that a Supreme Court, a body encompassing just nine justices, can make decisions for a nation of over 332 million people? The immediate response is that not anyone can become a justice and it is a difficult and complicated journey to qualify to join the Supreme Court; one must be rigorously examined, have reached the heights of success in their careers and be an ‘honest American’. And yet, why were these 'honest' judges, particularly the more recently elected ones from Trumpism, so dishonest in their trial to join the Supreme Court? When asked whether he intended to dismantle Roe vs. Wade, Justice Barrett commented, “I have no agenda…”, whilst Kavanagh answered, “As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme court, by it, I mean Roe vs. Wade.” Shockingly, these nine justices speak for the same groups that they have been lying to.

These issues are equally nothing new. Another judge, Clarence Thomas, who also voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade has been on the Supreme Court since 1991, serving for three decades. He is a man people have questioned from the beginning. In her commencement address at Wellesley College in 1996, Nora Ephron, a journalist, writer and filmmaker, was so concerned by his being on the Supreme Court that she felt the need to speak of it to the student body. She warned, “Don’t underestimate how much antagonism there is toward women and how many people wish we could turn the clock back. [...] Listen hard to what’s going on and, please, I beg you, take it personally. Understand every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you. [...] Any move to limit abortion rights is an attack on you – whether or not you believe in abortion. The fact that Clarence Thomas is sitting on the Supreme Court today is an attack on you.”

How eerie that of all the concerns she listed, her concern over abortion is followed by an inherent afterthought regarding Thomas and his power. This speech is 26 years old. Ephron died in her 70s only ten years ago. It goes to show how these issues never went away. The legalisation of Roe vs. Wade was supposedly solidified over 25 years before Ephron made this speech and here we are, another 25 years on, still dealing with the unravelling of Roe vs. Wade.

Conflicting opinions over Roe vs. Wade are longstanding in American culture and film. There’s a comedy skit recirculating from George Carlin from 1996 in which he jokes, “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why is it that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn’t want to fuck in the first place?.”The monologue is almost ten minutes long and only reflects the need to defend women’s rights in mainstream media.

Indeed, the monologue only increases in its witty attacks. On the anti-choice protestors he notes, “You don’t see them adopting a lot of crack babies, do you? No, that might be something Christ would do.” This points out two of the most worrying effects this decision will have: it will exacerbate the poverty cycle, subsequently locking these pregnant women into it for the rest of their lives. Secondly, it will worsen the already dire numbers in the foster care system, which currently stands at 400,000 children. And inevitably, capitalism benefits as the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. You have to wonder how much more profit can be achieved by forced births, especially when the very people who are against universal healthcare are the same ones advocating the banning of abortion.

Why do they want to ban abortion? Or maybe the question is what do they stand to gain? How much could they care about children when there are over 400,000 children in the US foster care system waiting to be adopted? There wouldn’t be milk formula shortages and cuts to food stamps and welfare, right? Wouldn't they have a public education system not in tatters, where there are children’s corpses lying in those very schools across America? If they cared about life, America would not have the fifth highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

The roots of the ongoing destabilising of abortion are recent as well as old. Trump sought to infect this court and his legacy of chaos lives on. He used his power to enable justices like Kavanagh and Barrett, the former whose name might ring a bell as *ding ding* he’s famous for a sexual assault trial spanning four different women. At the time, people were outraged that a potential mistake he made as a teenager might affect his future, his career prospects and his rights. Ironic, right? Especially when we now see that he was still sworn into the Supreme Court (what was that about being an ‘honest’ American?). This is becoming somewhat of a running tradition of the Supreme Court and Thomas has similarly been accused of sexual assault (not that it has affected his career either). He also recently stated that aborted foetus cells are used in Covid vaccines - if that gives you any indication of the hands in which women’s lives in America rest.

What is most eerie to think about is the women who will have seen this news who will die from unsafe abortions in the weeks, months or years following this decision. Perhaps this will be in America or beyond where the echoes of this superpower state will sound. Or perhaps, they will be imprisoned for doing so. What is most shocking and insidious is that not only does this law impact women's rights to their bodies, but it will also impact their right to vote. Whether you are incarcerated for getting an abortion or being a doctor involved in the process, you might await a sentence of life in Texas and up to 15 years in prison in many other states (guess how many years longer than convicted rape these sentences are). Women here are and will not be able to vote. In 11 states, felons will lose their right to vote indefinitely. And of course, these states belong to the Republicans who we now have to thank for this law that stifles, and rescinds women’s suffrage, while murdering and imprisoning them. And who knows what else they might be capable of with this increase in power

Women and girls will die, their economic status will be affected, their right to education will be affected, their voting rights will be affected and their freedom will be affected.

To conclude, I’m going to quote Ephron again, “Any move to limit abortion rights is an attack on you.” When women’s rights are rescinded anywhere, they are rescinded everywhere. This affects all of us.

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