The Unkillable Zombie of States’ Rights

In last week’s dancing-about-architecture essay regarding The Beatles: Get Back I didn’t have to mention TFG or the Republican Party even once, which was a treat. This week, it’s back on your heads, people. And what could be more shit-sucking than wading into the debate about abortion? 

Gluttons for punishment, follow me…..

JUST A BUNCH OF REASONABLE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO OWN SLAVES

Over the past five years, the term “conservative” has ceased to have its proper meaning in American politics, especially when it comes to the punditocracy. With its only rational members having fled to a mainstream mediascape where Reality still reigns, the picked-over corpse of what now constitutes “conservative media” consists largely of con men, carnival barkers, and batshit conspiracy theorists hopped up on their own vitamin supplements, human growth hormone, and horse de-wormer. 

What those cretins have to say about abortion does not merit serious consideration. 

But consider what the few remaining, ostensibly “reasonable” conservative pundits have to say on the subject. The argument you hear from those folks goes like this:

“When Roe is rightly overturned, it won’t affect the legality of abortion or access to it in liberal states like New York, California, or Massachusetts. All it will do is return the rightful authority to restrict it to those states that wish to do so.” 

Seems almost reasonable, if the person saying it is a well-spoken public intellectual in a bowtie on CNN, and not a spittle-spewing protestor holding a graphic picture of an aborted fetus and screaming in the face of a 14 year-old girl as she tries to enter a Planned Parenthood clinic. 

But in fact, that proposition is dishonest and chilling in the extreme. 

This is the same old “states’ rights” argument that has plagued our nation since its very founding—pre-dating it, in fact, all the way back to 1619, you might say. It is the same one that ignited the Civil War and continues to be the animating force behind the most divisive issues roiling the United States to this day. And it’s no different when it comes from an amiable Republican politician in a fleece vest than from a Foghorn Leghorn-voiced Virginia slaveholder in a waistcoat in 1860.

Consider how readily the states’ rights argument on abortion could be applied to other matters…..including matters to which it was very memorably applied in the past:

If Alabama wants to have whites-only drinking fountains, racially segregated schools, a literacy test at the polls, if it wants to define marriage as an institution exclusively for heterosexual couples, or make homosexuality illegal outright, or deny women the vote, or Black people, or Democrats, what’s the problem? (Oh, wait—they’re already doing that.) If the majority of Alabamans are cool with that—I’ll pick on them, hypothetically, if you don’t mind, hypothetically—how is that any skin off the collective nose of Pennsylvanians, who are free to enact different policies as they see fit? Live and let live, n’est-ce pas

No, n’est not so pas. Not at all.

We are a Union whose entire existence hinges on a fundamental set of shared values. Not every value, but the most basic ones. There are laws of minor significance that can vary from state to state without harelipping the nation: what days of the week you can buy booze, what the speed limit ought to be, how long you can redshirt your pre-kindergartener to give him a leg up in the NFL draft. But there are other things that are inherent to who we are as a country and cannot be abridged if we want to maintain that national integrity. Things like equality for all under the law, protection of voting rights including unfettered access to the polls, and the rights to privacy, personal safety, and liberty. One of those fundamental values is, or at least ought to be, what Justice Elena Kagan has called “the fabric of women’s existence in this country.” 

In the 1957, President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to protect Black schoolchildren as they entered the halls of Central High, which had been desegregated over the objections of the state government. He did that because the Supreme Court had ruled that the United States was not going to have a system of apartheid, not even with the separate but (putatively) equal facilities that an earlier Court had deemed kosher. 

Almost a century earlier we went to war with our own countrymen over the question of whether some states—claiming “states’ rights”—were going to allow the lawful bondage and enslavement of human beings. 

With Roe v. Wade—and the new laws in Texas and Mississippi (among others) that challenge it—we are now being asked to decide a similar question, something that can’t be allowed to vary across state lines if we want to call ourselves a civilized union. I would phrase that question as: do American women have autonomy over their own bodies, or not? The radically different way others would phrase it speaks to the breadth of the divide. 

It took a bloody civil war for America to conclude that our Black fellow countrymen are, gosh, full human beings and citizens deserving of equal protection under the law. The drama playing out now suggests that we have not yet concluded that women are too.

THE HIGHLY MOBILE GOALPOSTS OF “PRO-LIFE” COMPROMISE

In a democracy, we have to accept laws that accommodate a pluralistic range and diversity of views, irrespective of our own personal moral beliefs. Abortion falls into that category. The debate pits two equally adamant camps against each other: one that believes a fertilized egg is tantamount to a human being, and another that views the government’s Cambodia-like incursion into the uterus as hateful subordination of women as second class citizens. 

It is ironic that that first camp—which, opportunistically or otherwise, includes the entire Republican Party—analogizes its cause to that of 19th century anti-slavery abolitionists, yet uses the strategy of slaveholders of that same era to defend it.  

You might have noticed: the entire debate about abortion hinges on when life begins, the two irreconcilable extremes being a) at the moment of conception, and b) at the moment of birth. Neither view can have its way entirely in a functioning American republic, which is fine, because both are absurd. An acorn is not an oak tree, but neither is a fetus in the 32nd week just a hunk of inanimate tissue, particularly given the capability of modern medicine to maintain viability outside the womb.

(Not even worth discussing is an even more extreme Catholic position that even sperm, or an unfertilized egg, which is to say “potential life,” should be accorded the same rights and protections as a living human. That is a nonsensical, anti-scientific argument that would make murder out of a wet dream or the menstrual cycle itself. By that logic, we don’t even need to go to the point of ejaculation: just the tingling feeling I get when I see Penelope Cruz would constitute a mortal sin, notwithstanding the astronomical odds against matters proceeding from there. Or so it says in the TRO I was served with.) 

The whole point is that we are stuck with an insoluble philosophical question, à la Plato’s Beard, the only answers to which are arbitrary by definition and therefore unsatisfactory. In light of that, inflexible dogmatic positions like these two extremes are unworkable in a representative democracy. What we need instead is a reasonable middle ground that accommodates as much as possible the competing needs and desires of all parties involved. That is to say: a policy that gives American women their rightful autonomy over their bodies, and offers a fair window for responsible reproductive decisions, while still protecting the sanctity of life in terms of fetuses who are past the point of viability.

Something kinda like the system established as a result of Roe vs. Wade, yes? 

Because what we are currently litigating isn’t the incompatible views of life-begins-at-conception and life-begins-at-birth. It is the extremism of the former, versus a reasonable accommodation for a democratic society, which is what Roe—the existing law of the land—represents.

For the anti-choice movement, yes, the extreme does apply, with many of its members unwilling to make exceptions under any circumstances. But no credible voice in the pro-choice movement is insisting on abortion on demand up to the moment of birth. What the pro-choice movement wants is what Roe guarantees, when not restricted with insidious legal maneuvers that undermine the spirit of the decision: an American woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own body under reasonable conditions. 

I understand that for those who take the begins-at-conception position, any compromise, on democratic grounds or otherwise, is unacceptable. I would respectfully suggest that the real problem is the invalidity of their unfounded and extremist view, one which they insist on imposing upon the rest of the country. Indeed, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out, what they seek to impose is essentially a religious belief, raising questions of abrogation of First Amendment protections for the rest of us on behalf of one preferred religious group. (Tit for tat, evangelicals.)

Last week on “MTP Daily with Chuck Todd,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) specifically made the states’ rights argument, suggesting that the Mississippi case—Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—represents a kind of middle ground on this thorny issue…..a sort of Missouri Compromise, if you will. (Because we saw how well that worked.)

But Roe itself is already the compromise. Dobbs and its ilk would take away even that.  

And yet that is precisely what the Supreme Court is about to do away with.

I WISH I WAS IN THE LAND OF COTTON

It’s a bitter irony that Hillary’s loss in 2016 was driven in large part by sheer misogyny, and as a result the sexual predator host of “The Apprentice” was able to put three—three!—justices on the Supreme Court, a bloc that now looks set to overturn Roe and set back women’s rights in this country—and human rights—a hundred years. 

If I had told you in 1983 that this bozo Donald Trump, this cartoonish d-bag celebrity wannabe and butt of jokes in Spy Magazine, was gonna be in a position to do that—and also to foment a violent attempt to overthrow the government, and to command an army of tens of millions of pinwheel-eyed disciples—you’d have laughed me out of my parachute pants and Members Only jacket. 

For that matter if we were in a movie theater in 1951 watching Bedtime for Bonzo and I told you that that actor up on screen would serve two terms as president and become a deified figure in the Republican Party, you’d have asked me when the Constitution was going to be amended to allow chimpanzees to run for office.

Yet here we are.

In the New Yorker, Amy Davidson Sorkin writes that “In a few months’ time, when (the Dobbs) decision is likely to be handed down, the right to an abortion as Americans have known it for half a century will, it appears, no longer exist.” (Along with Mississippi and Texas, some 19 other states are poised to make abortion literally or effectively illegal as soon as the Supreme Court gives them the nod.) 

She goes on to obliterate the dishonesty of the states’ rights position, and the callous indifference to our neighbors that it proposes:

There is a difference between living with a right and relying on the indulgence of a state legislature. And it is an insult to people in every state to say that they needn’t care about the liberty and well-being of people in another state who might be deprived of choice or pushed toward the sort of unsafe, illegal abortions that often cost women of earlier generations their lives.

David French, formerly of National Review, has made the eyebrow-raising argument that returning the issue to the states will calm matters, a position that likewise harkens back to attempts to find a “compromise” on slavery. (Calming matters, however, is not the paramount concern for either side.) By contrast, the Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes articulates the majority view that affirming Dobbs will do exactly the opposite. Count me on Team Charlie. 

Some of the other Republican arguments on abortion are particularly ironic at a time when issues of medical necessity, personal privacy, and governmental intrusion on bodily autonomy are at the forefront of the national conversation. 

In another conversation with Chuck Todd last week, Sen. Braun of Indiana argued that a  COVID-19 vaccine mandate, and even just weekly testing if you don’t want the vaccine, is an unacceptable medical intrusion on Americans, especially those who don’t have convenient local access to it. This from the Dept. of You Can’t Make This Shit Up.

The states’ rights amen corner makes a great show of venerating the Enlightenment ideals of egalitarianism and representative democracy as envisioned by the Founding Fathers. But in reality, those ideals are exactly what that corner opposes. (And of course we have the irony of many of those Founders themselves being slaveholders.) The right to operate racist, sexist, plutocratic mini-autocracies within the federal system is what “states’ rights” has always boiled down to…..and before you accuse me of hyperbole, let’s bear in mind that the kind of contentious, restrictive policies I laid out above are precisely the kind that this movement has fought for in the past, and wants to institute now. No one raises the banner of states’ rights—or needs to—so that Georgia can name the brown thrasher the state bird. 

In this talk of “states’ rights,” there is no discussion, you will note, of the burden that laws like Mississippi’s would place on poor and/or working women who can’t travel to another state to get an abortion, or for victims of rape or incest (or both, as the latter usually implies the former). That is because anti-choice advocates don’t really think anyone should be able to get an abortion, anywhere, anytime, ever, so they really don’t care. 

For here is the ultimate irony, and hypocrisy: if they succeed in gaining power at the national level, which seems likely, you can be sure they will try to outlaw abortion nationwide. 

Where’s your “states’ rights,” now?

THE WEDGE ISSUE TO END ALL WEDGE ISSUES

It is no accident that abortion has become such a prominent issue for the American right, and the reason is two-fold. 

First, it’s something that REALLY gyrates a passionate segment of the Republican base, which is an invaluable resource for any political party. (Why it gyrates them so is a matter for another day.) 

Secondly, it’s an issue that insidiously seeks to maintain and even further entrench the control of women by men in a blatantly inequitable, anti-feminist way.

A hyperpartisan wedge issue that lets the GOP advance the cause of white male patriarchy? That’s a no-brainer. The Republican Party is gonna put all its chips on that number every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  

Naturally, there are true believers who are genuinely and passionately convinced that life begins at the moment the lights go down and the needle drops on the Barry White record. But a huge segment of the national politicians who are “pro-life”—a majority, I would unscientifically wager—are cynics and opportunists manipulating the hoi polloi, while their own opinions may well be different, or at least indifferent. Do you really think Donald Trump is against abortion? Surely he has paid for plenty in his time…..or more likely, as Samantha Bee says, promised to pay for them and welshed.

The conservative position on abortion is certainly not about being “pro-life,” to use the preferred propagandistic term of the evangelical right. (Which is why I don’t feel bad about calling them “anti-choice,” an equally loaded term, but I would argue a perfectly accurate one.) 

To restate the obvious, where does that “pro-life” mentality go when it comes to providing childcare for working mothers, or food for hungry children, or medical assistance to the poor, or any of the other post-partum humanitarian issues on which conservatives suddenly turn Dickensian? As George Carlin quipped, the allegedly “pro-life” forces are all in on protecting babies….until they come out of the womb. After that, fuck you: you’re on your own. 

Many of these same people, of course, are also adamantly in favor of the unregulated availability of guns, including semiautomatic, high-capacity ones designed for the battlefield, and have little to say beyond ”thoughts and prayers” at the massacring of Americans, many of them children, with clockwork regularity. Some even send out Christmas cardsthat celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with what looks like Al Capone’s family portrait. 

It’s also no coincidence that the anti-choice forces characterize their crusade as about “saving babies.” It’s the most dramatic possible way of framing it, even if that framing elides crucial nuances and even scientific reality. As I wrote a few weeks ago, this is the same impulse behind QAnon’s fever dream of Satan-worshipping pedophiles among the Hollywood and Washington elite. In the scorched earth Gingrichian politics of the American right, it is necessary to characterize one’s foes as the most vile creatures imaginable, the better to justify the most extreme tactics to defeat them. So what could be worse than baby-killers? (Echoes of Vietnam, when that exact same appellation was hurled at returning GIs by a rabid antiwar left.)

The idea that a D&C at six weeks “kills a baby” is a triumph of bad science, bad linguistics, and bad faith argument. But it’s good for inflaming a certain passionate segment of the electorate and driving them to the polls (or merely into your camp should you decide to make the polls irrelevant). One might suggest that I am doing the same thing by invoking the ghost of American slavery. OK. I promise to stop as soon as they do…..in the mean time, I’ll stand by the validity of my analogy and put it up against theirs any place, any time.

PAGING CAPTAIN RENAULT

Like a number of conservative nominees to the Supreme Court, during his confirmation hearings, Bart “I Like Beer” O’Kavanaugh clutched his pearls and assured the US Senate of his deep, deep respect for precedent. Now that he is safely on the Court for life, with impeachment a highly unlikely (but not totally unfathomable) possibility, his enthusiasm for stare decisis seems to have waned considerably.

It goes without saying that questions about “precedent” asked of Supreme Court nominees are always coded ones that are really about a certain topic that dare not speak its name. But in his hearings three years ago, Kavanaugh said explicitly that Roe was “settled as a precedent” because “it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years.” Indeed, he went out of his way to assure his various partners in this Apache dance—Susan Collins above all—that he had no intention of overturning it. But now that he has been presented with the chance to do so, he is damn near salivating at the possibility.

In the New Yorker, Amy Davidson Sorkin writes of how Kavanaugh “rhapsodized” last week about the “history-making power the Court has,” rattling off seminal cases that overturned previous rulings that, in his view, were wrong. Among the triumphant reversals he noted were Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Gideon v. Wainwright, and Obergefell v. Hodges. 

….and those are some of the most consequential and important in the Court’s history,” (Kavanaugh) said. If the Court, in the Dobbs case, thinks “that the prior precedents are seriously wrong,” can’t it pursue “the right answer” instead? If it never overturned precedents, he said, “the country would be a much different place.”

(Yes—one more to the liking of the neo-Confederate ethos the GOP supports, in terms of the list he ran down.)

Did you catch what Brett was up to? (If not, maybe PJ or Squee can explain, or Buster, or Ass Man, or Dr. Stinkfinger, or one of his other high school buddies.) He was casting Roe v. Wade as an egregious judicial error on a par with the policies of segregation, denial of due process in the criminal justice system, and marital discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. I’m surprised he didn’t include Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott, though the WaPo’s Hugh Hewittdid. Or maybe he doesn’t think those were wrong.

In truth, of course, what we are facing is just the opposite, as Kavanaugh’s colleague Justice Sotomayor keenly noted.

The Orwellian hypocrisy of acting as if overturning Roe is on a par with defending civil rights should come as no surprise: co-opting the iconography of the civil rights movement is all the rage in right wing America these days, where reactionary politicians now regularly invoke the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to promote policies that are diametrically opposed to everything he stood for. (Virginia’s Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin is just the most prominent of many Republican politicians to do so, in his recent successful gubernatorial campaign.)

It’s what Ibram X. Kendi calls “the second assassination” of MLK, all over again.

In the Washington Post, Paul Waldman writes that “the conservatives on the Supreme Court lied to us all.” Very true, though we’ve known that all along. (Except Susan Collins, who is also the proud owner of a bridge in Brooklyn and some swampland in Florida.).

They weren’t just evasive, or vague, or deceptive. They lied. They lied to Congress and to the country, claiming they either had no opinions at all about abortion, or that their beliefs were simply irrelevant to how they would rule. 

It was all a lie, a scam, a con: the assurances that they were blank slates committed to “originalism” and “textualism,” that they wouldn’t “legislate from the bench,” that they have no agenda but merely a “judicial philosophy.”

Somehow that philosophy nearly always produces results conservatives want: undermining voting rights, enhancing corporate power, constraining the rights of workers, enabling the proliferation of guns, and now most vividly, allowing state governments to force women to carry pregnancies to term against their will.

Waldman then walks us through what various justices said during their respective confirmation hearings, from Gorsuch to Roberts to Alito to Barrett, who “was already on record stating that abortion is a moral evil,” but during her hearings insisted, “I don’t have any agenda” and that it “would not be possible” to predict how she would rule on an abortion case. 

As Waldman quips, “That must be why Republicans were so desperate to get her on the court and so rapturous with joy when she was confirmed: Because they had no idea how she might rule!” (Ouch.) 

The cake-taker, though, might be Clarence Thomas, who astonishingly claimed that he did not have an opinion about Roe, and in fact had never even had a conversation about it. (That may be news to his wife, a hardcore arch-Catholic activist.)

The kabuki is not limited to SCOTUS nominees, of course. Waldman writes: “Like his Republican colleagues….Ted Cruz repeatedly insisted at confirmation hearings that the very idea that a Republican appointee might have a political agenda was deeply offensive to whatever fine nominee was before them.” 

But here is Cancun Ted speaking with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham last week:

“If we have six Republican appointees on this court,” (Ingraham) said, “after all the money that’s been raised, the Federalist Society, all these big fat-cat dinners — I’m sorry, I’m pissed about this—if this court with six justices cannot do the right thing here,” then Republicans should “blow it up” and pass some kind of law limiting the court’s authority.

“I would do that in a heartbeat,” Cruz responded.

“In other words,” Waldman writes, “We bought this court, and we’d better get what we paid for.”

EVERY SPERM IS SACRED

Speaking of precedent, when the Court considered Texas’s new vigilante anti-choice law this past fall, Kavanaugh was given pause by the idea that the same trick could conceivably be used (get it?) by another state—say, a Democratic-controlled one—to restrict firearms, for example. If Texas can refashion itself as Gilead, why can’t California institute sharia law (which we all know that us liberals are super keen to do)?

But overall, right wingers don’t seem too worried, as their general policy with this and all other matters is to interpret the law as they wish to benefit themselves, and reverse it on a dime for the other side.

Kavanaugh also made an explicit states’ rights argument in leading questions that he asked the Mississippi solicitor general, suggesting that the Constitution was neutral on the issue of abortion, and that a ruling for Mississippi in Dobbs would not prohibit the procedure, only leave it to each individual state to decide. The WaPo’s, Ruth Marcusmade short work of that fallacy, explaining how reproductive rights are clearly the kind protected by the 14thAmendment: 

To say that the Constitution is “neutral” is another way of saying that women no enjoy no protection, no liberty to decide what to do with their own bodies—or, more precisely, only so much protection as the state where they live chooses to grant them.

But the right wing still has plenty of surrogates in the media pushing its narrative.  

Ahead of last week’s arguments before the Supreme Court, the New York Times’ Ross Douthat wrote a column titled “The Case Against Abortion” that neatly illustrated the intellectual disingenuousness—and sloppiness—of so-called conservatives on the topic. 

As the Gray Lady’s resident devoutly Catholic reactionary hiding behind a veneer of staid, above-the-fray “reasonableness,” Douthat began with two sweeping, related, and totally unsupported (and unsupportable) presumptions:

There is no way to seriously deny that abortion is a form of killing. At a less advanced stage of scientific understanding, it was possible to believe that the embryo or fetus was somehow inert or vegetative until so-called quickening, months into pregnancy. But we now know the embryo is not merely a cell with potential, like a sperm or ovum, or a constituent part of human tissue, like a skin cell. Rather, a distinct human organism comes into existence at conception, and every stage of your biological life, from infancy and childhood to middle age and beyond, is part of a single continuous process that began when you were just a zygote.

Say what??? What exactly in embryology tells us that “a distinct human organism comes into existence at conception,” other than Ross’s wish that it is so? How precisely does the act of avoiding the wet spot qualify as the choir-chiming moment at which the mythical soul achieves personhood?

Douthat goes on:

We know from embryology, in other words, not Scripture or philosophy, that abortion kills a unique member of the species Homo sapiens, an act that in almost every other context is forbidden by the law.

Again: wha????? Making a Misty Copeland-caliber jeté from his previous howler, Douthat neatly concludes that, since a freshly fertilized egg deserves the right to vote on “American Idol,” anything other than carrying that embryo to term involves “killing” a human being. 

In other words, he presents as indisputable fact the notion that human life OBVIOUSLY begins at conception and that therefore abortion is killing BY DEFINITION. (He stops short of the word “murder,” but he certainly implies that this killing is unjustifiable, as opposed to, say, killing in self-defense, or in warfare, or by legal execution.) Zero actual proof for either point, by the by, just a blithe restatement of the anti-abortion dogma, leaping over fundamental precepts of logic and reasoning that a college freshman learns in Philosophy 101. You may agree or disagree with Douthat, but you can’t just state those things without a cogent argument behind them. That’s the whole crux of this long-running and heated debate. 

Everything after that is pointless, once he insists that we accept those terms. 

Backing up a little, even the title of Douthat’s piece—“The Case Against Abortion”—is slanted, implying that the folks on the other side of the debate are super gung-ho and “for” abortion. They love getting abortions! They do it the way other people go bowling on Tuesday nights! 

The notion of “safe, legal, and rare” is not helpful when one is writing agitprop. 

The title also, in its oversimplification, implies endorsement of a total, no-exceptions ban on the procedure, which isn’t something even Douthat has proposed. But an op-ed called “The Case Against Abortion, Except In Cases of Rape or Incest or Lethal Threat to the Health of the Mother” doesn’t sing, does it? No one ever said this debate was big on nuance.

MY BODY, MY CHOICE (YOURS—NOT SO MUCH)

In some ways, though, we need not bother ourselves with Ross Douthat, as his credibility is less than zero. Every single day I want us all to re-post Douthat’s October 10, 2020 column titled “There Will Be No Trump Coup,” one of the most egregiously and embarrassingly wrong predictions in all of postwar American journalism. 

Yet he remains a columnist in the most respected newspaper in America.

Ross continues to try to qualify and rationalize that column, but both the column itself and his ongoing defense of it speak to his smugness and sense of entitlement. 

In closing, let us turn instead to Boston University history professor and Substack superstar Heather Cox Richardson, who reminds us that the Dobbs case is about a lot more than abortion. 

Make no mistake: it is not just reproductive rights that are under siege. If the Supreme Court returns power to the states to legislate as they wish, any right currently protected by the federal government is at risk. 

After 19 Republican-dominated states have passed election laws suppressing the vote and gerrymandering districts, a reactionary minority controls them. Although Biden won Wisconsin, for example, the state supreme court today left in place districts that likely will enable Republicans to control 60% of the legislative seats in the state (and 75% of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives). Ending federal protections for civil rights means handing to these reactionaries power over the majority of us.

So, contrary to the states’ rights argument, even if you don’t care about reproductive rights, or the legalization of bounties for citizens to snitch on their neighbors, shrugging your shoulders over the de facto outlawing of abortion in Mississippi and Texas (to start) opens the door to a very worrying area. What’s to stop the states’ rights crew from enacting laws that, say, disenfranchise women, Margaret Atwood style? Or Black people? Or Democrats? (Oh wait—they’re already doing that.)

At a time when voting rights are under assault in dozens of states—when American representative democracy full stop is facing an existential crisis—the notion that the Supreme Court might well affirm the right of individual states to wantonly do whatever the hell they please takes us far beyond even the seminal question of women’s rights and fetal heartbeats to the heartbeat of the republic itself.  

********

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

4 thoughts on “The Unkillable Zombie of States’ Rights

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