For Deliverance: A Letter on Roe

tags: abortion, Supreme Court, reproductive rights

Riley Clare Valentine is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Louisiana State University. Their research revolves around language, politics, and care ethics as a response to neoliberalism. They are an educator.

“For deliverance from all danger, violence, oppression, and degradation,”[1]

Abortion has always been in my immediate discourse. My mother, a pro-choice Catholic, told me in high school about a friend dying from an illegal abortion. She would regularly ask her pro-life Catholic friends about why they were not protesting men’s role in reproductive sex—focusing solely on people who could birth as responsible alone for the fetus. I attended Catholic schools and was a vocal supporter of abortion—using the language of supporting abortion and not being pro-choice. I am still an active Catholic and I actively support abortion and denounce the Church’s positions to fellow Catholics.

In college a philosophy professor assigned my class Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion.” Thomson does not provide an outright support of abortion, but she does argue that the fetus’ right to life does not supersede the pregnant person’s right to control their body. Rather than arguing for abortion, it is better to characterize her argument as one in favor of a right to stop being pregnant. In a country that still fails to provide meaningful access to health and child care, how can we deprive women of that right?[2]

The support for rights to abortion access have been combed over by many schools of thought and ethical theorists. The number of legal abortions in 2019 was roughly 630,000. The CDC reports from 2010 to 2019 the rates of abortion dropped to 13%. The majority of abortions occur in early gestation, roughly 92.7% of all abortion were performed under 13 weeks of pregnancy. Moreover, the majority of Americans, 59%, support abortion in all cases. The split between abortion perspectives is largely partisan.[3] The fact that abortion is a partisan concern, rather than a legal one, is disturbing.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that Roe v. Wade was based upon strong precedent.[4] Many of the new justices on the Court have appeal to the importance of stare decisis—the legal principle of utilizing precedent in legal decision-making, rather than interpreting the law in light of current affairs. Such an approach would make it likely that Roe v. Wade would be upheld. It seemed, for a moment, after Justice Gorsuch ruling in favor of using Title VII to protect gay and transgender workers in Bostock v. Clayton County, that judges would indeed refer to the law, rather than their own perspective. However, potential overturning of Roe demonstrates that the prospect of a nonpartisan Court is nothing but a liberal fantasy.


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