In a stunning 6-3 decision, in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court recently overturned the precedent of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, two cases which had guaranteed women the right to an abortion in the United States.
I want to talk about why the overturning of Roe and Casey ultimately doesn’t really matter that much. But before I do, first, let’s get into the facts.
In the decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the prior precedent was based on faulty and tortured reasoning, and that the U.S. Constitution didn’t provide a fundamental right to an abortion under the 14th Amendment “due process clause.” Instead the Supreme Court ruled that the right to an abortion is one of the unenumerated rights that is ultimately left up to the individual states to decide, as the U.S. Constitution doesn’t explicitly spell out the right to an abortion in the U.S. Constitution.
As currently reported at the time of this podcast, only 8 states have outright bans on abortion, whereas only 6 states have zero restrictions on abortion, and the rest of the 36 states having a wide variety of policies that allow for abortion only up to certain periods of fetal development.
Of course, with the overturn of Roe and Casey, many popular narratives paint a dark picture in which America has been taken back to the Dark Ages, is the embodiment of patriarchy run amok, and a real life version of the Handmaids Tale. This ultimately isn’t true, and is simply sloppy and irresponsible rhetoric. The truth of the matter is, in spite of such popular rhetoric coming from the mouths of politicians and individuals on social media, most of us know better. We aren’t anywhere near living in a country that could be painted with such intellectually lazy metaphors.
The overturning of Roe and Casey ultimately amounts to America having an abortion policy that is very similar to much of Europe and their level of access and restrictions that many of their countries place on abortion. Most European countries have a variety of restrictions on abortions that in many ways mirror the average state in the United States. If you imagined that Europe was this great liberal area where everyone had unrestricted access to abortion, you’d be wrong. In many instances, America has been more liberal than much of Europe in access to abortion.
Such is hardly the Handmaid’s Tale or a return to the Dark Ages. With the overturning of Roe and Casey, we are now just about as liberal as much of Europe regarding access to abortion. And while that might not satisfy your progressive utopian ideals, I’d say anything that is in keeping with European social practices is plenty liberal enough.
And while the overturning of Roe and Casey by the Supreme Court will indeed allow for the outlaw of abortion in 8 states, with possibly others looking to make tighter restrictions on abortion, I believe this issue doesn’t really matter.
Of course in saying it doesn’t really matter, let me first acknowledge it will matter some. This ruling has real world practical ramifications.
For instance, it means there are 8 states in which women who previously believed they had a constitutional right to an abortion no longer have that right, and yet other states who may make their access to abortion yet more restrictive. Such could impact a woman medically, legally, financially, and ultimately keep women from making decisions about their very lives.
But on the other hand, the inability of women to get an abortion will save lives. It’s estimated that Dobbs ruling will cause an estimated 10-12% reduction in abortions nationwide. With about 930,000 abortions taking place in 2020, that means nearly 93,000-111,000 lives per year will be saved as a result of the Dobbs decision. I’m not sure about you, but that seems rather meaningful, especially to those who are among the born.
But even with all that said, I believe at the end of the day, the Dobbs decision overruling Roe and Casey won’t matter all that much. Because at the end of the day, I don’t think most people really care all that much about abortion rights, or whether or not a small percentage of lives are saved.
If people really cared about abortion so deeply, we would’ve seen Democrats codifying Roe into federal law many times over. And if Republicans really cared about the life of the unborn, we probably should have seen more legislation making it easier on families to care for their children. But we’ve seen neither.
According to data, the abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44) is estimated to be at the most 13.5 per 1,000 women. Such is only 1.35% of women of child bearing age. And with the number of abortions in this country, on a per capita basis, being near all time lows, there is simply less and less demand by women for abortion services.
Such should give us pause for reflection on what that means.
That means that having an abortion is something that only a very small percentage of women want in any given year. Far from the extremist “shout your abortion” mantra, more and more, women simply don’t desire to have an abortion. And for those that do, the ability to obtain an abortion isn’t that big of a deal to the vast majority of women in our country.
Ultimately at the end of the day, there is still very wide access to abortion services in the United States, so that those who want to obtain an abortion, whether their state allows it or not, will be able to do so. The vast majority of states still recognize the right of a woman to have an abortion, even if the Supreme Court and U.S. Constitution does not recognize that right explicitly. It might be more difficult in some states than others, but that won’t prevent the vast majority of women who want an abortion to actually obtain an abortion.
Which is why the level of protest and fallout over Roe and Casey being overruled has been very muted. Much more muted than I actually personally anticipated. I previously thought that we would see a great amount of civil unrest, at least on the level of the BLM protests from several years ago. But nothing remotely of that scale has happened, nor is it likely to happen. I’m sure there will be some massive demonstrations from time to time, and someone assassinating a political figure or two shouldn’t be entirely dismissed as something that could happen.
But, at the end of the day, in spite of the limited outrage seen on social media and on the news and in the streets, striking down Roe and Casey was much more of a symbolic culture war victory for the political right than anything else. A major culture war victory to be certain. The largest in decades. But ultimately, a mostly symbolic victory, as it will do very little to actually stop abortion in America.
Intuitively, both on the political left and right, I believe we know this to be the case. Abortion will continue to still be something women can largely legally obtain in this country. Hundreds of thousands of abortions will continue to take place, and almost everyone that wants an abortion will be able to get one without much problem.
But most people simply don’t care about any of this, because access to abortion isn’t something that will impact most people in their day to day lives. Most people are worried about whether they will have decent jobs, be able to afford their home, take care of their kids, and live a life of dignity, undisturbed by others.
Whether you think the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs was a good thing or bad thing, and whatever your opinion on abortion might be, this is simply the reality of the situation. The ability to access an abortion is something that the vast majority of the population will ever have to seriously think about. And for those that want to have an abortion, the vast majority will still have the ability to obtain an abortion. And most people simply won’t care one way or the other.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court overturning of Roe and Case won’t matter all that much to most people. Abortion is something that will continue to happen out on the margins of society, and something that most people just ultimately shrug their shoulders over, even if they get whipped into the occasional frenzy by a politician on the left or the right.