When Donald Trump was elected President in November 2016, I remember lots of people telling me to calm down, it would be fine. His ability to follow through on his deplorable campaign promises would be limited because of checks and balances. It soon became apparent there would be a strain on those checks and balances since Trump had an entire party alongside him that was complicit. GOP operatives are no longer even trying to hide their strategy, as reported in a recent New York Times article detailing Project 2025 and their plans to increase Presidential powers should the Republican candidate win the election in 20241.
Nowhere are Republicans more intent on dismantling our freedoms and imposing their will than when it comes to reproductive rights. We know two things as we prepare for the 2024 elections: the GOP is becoming more extreme in their anti-democratic agenda, and abortion rights will be on the ballot. This gives Democrats and anyone who believes in defending our democracy and freedom a lot to be concerned about. But it also gives us an opportunity at the ballot box.
On June 24, 2022, just over a year ago, the majority right-wing Supreme Court stripped away the constitutional right for a woman to get an abortion in this country. Immediately, thirteen states with trigger laws kicked in, banning abortion in the first and second trimesters. Since then, states controlled by Republicans have wasted no time becoming even more extreme with their abortion bans. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a six week ban, and while there are some exceptions in place, such as a fifteen week extension in the case of rape or incest, the burden lays with the woman to provide documentation of a restraining order or police report2. In addition to Idaho’s near total abortion ban, it is illegal to help a minor leave the state to get an abortion without parental consent. Texas has a near total ban with few exceptions, and is working on legislation to block websites in the state that provide information on getting an abortion. Texas was also the state that passed a vigilante law, encouraging individuals to bring lawsuits against anyone who provides abortion care or assists someone in obtaining an abortion. Utah recently passed legislation prohibiting the licensing of abortion clinics, which would effectively eliminate access in the state3.
Even in states that make limited exceptions for rape and incest, imagine the trauma to the victim who now has to publicly deal with the consequences of all she has endured, possibly before she is ready to and at great personal cost if she does not have a support system behind her. It is something out of the Dark Ages. And with laws that would punish doctors for performing abortions, including taking away their medical license, in many of these states doctors are choosing to leave so there is no longer adequate reproductive healthcare for these women.
Since Roe was gutted, at least twelve states have passed near total bans, and another dozen have restrictions ranging from waiting periods to mandatory counseling to parental consent for minors4. All GOP controlled states. They are doing this in spite of the fact that the majority of Americans believe in the constitutional right to an abortion, even in these states. Fifty-three percent of adults believe medication abortion, the most common method of terminating a pregnancy, should be legal in their state, while only twenty-two percent believe it should not be legal5. Yet extreme GOP state legislators have taken it upon themselves to use their power to impose their will and ignore the will of the majority. And they’re getting away with it. Either because they have gerrymandered their districts so effectively that they have no accountability to their constituents. Or, as is currently happening in Ohio where a constitutional amendment could make it impossible for a ballot initiative to pass on a straight majority, they try to change the rules in their favor so that the majority no longer matters. This is anti-democracy and anti-freedom.
Republicans are set on dismantling abortion rights because it is a way to keep the white patriarchy intact. It’s a power move, and their objective is to control women and other underrepresented groups. It is obvious that it has nothing to do with protecting the sanctity of life. If these politicians really cared about life, they would care about life after birth. They would vote in favor of paid family leave, or fight for affordable healthcare, or to protect the life of the mother. But none of the state legislatures with draconian abortion bans have passed paid comprehensive family leave. And “virtually every Republican budget or fiscal plan over the last decade has included repeal of the Affordable Care Act6.” Most recently, Republican lawmakers are using abortion politics as a weapon against other life saving policies, such as refusing to reauthorize an international AIDS relief program created by President W. Bush unless anti-abortion restrictions are added to it7.
We hear outrage from supporters of abortion rights who use extreme examples to make their point. Such as the ten-year-old rape victim in Ohio who was forced to travel to Indiana to get an abortion because Ohio wouldn’t allow her to have one after six weeks. Imagine thinking it’s ok for a ten-year-old girl to give birth and become a mother. Or the woman in Texas who went into septic shock and nearly died because her state wouldn’t allow her to terminate her pregnancy even though it was no longer viable. These are horrific examples and shouldn’t be discounted. But they are only a small part of the argument and they should not be the reason why abortion rights need to be taken out of politics.
A woman should not be forced to have a child if she does not want to have one. There could be countless reasons why. Maybe she is too young. Or she can’t afford to raise a child. Maybe giving birth would put her health in jeopardy. Maybe she is going to school, or focussed on her career. It doesn’t really matter why. If we trust women to be mothers, then we must trust them to decide when or if it is time to become one. As long as abortion rights remain in the political arena, women and those affected by the dismantling of this constitutional freedom will continue to be pawns, to be used and exploited by a faction that neither cares for the life of the mother nor the future of the unborn child.
We are at a dangerous time. Republicans have made it clear this is just the beginning. They won’t stop until a full abortion ban is the law of the land. They will strip away a woman’s right to reproductive healthcare. They will criminalize the use of birth control. They will let women die.
For those of us who care about democracy and freedom, it would be dangerous to get out the popcorn and sit this one out. We know what will happen if there’s a red wave. We can’t give up and accept their plan. We need to keep fighting, and spread the word about the GOP extremist agenda to take away our freedoms and dismantle democracy. Before it’s too late.