At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama achieved celebrity with his unifying speech.
“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America,” he intoned with soaring rhetoric.
Obama’s vision will now be put to the test. A leaked memo previewing a Supreme Court decision to apparently overturn Roe v. Wade will sharply divide states based on the abortion laws they enact. It will have far-reaching consequences that place hardships on women and cause deep economic and social pain for Red States poised to return to the Dark Ages.
The decision itself is shameful. An illegitimate Supreme Court, deliberately and underhandedly packed with extremists, is imposing the personal religious beliefs of its radical members on all Americans. These zealots are brazenly acting against the wishes of the people. A May 2021 Gallup Poll showed that 58% of Americans do not want Roe overturned, while only 32% do. A more recent CNN poll found that 69% percent of Americans did not want to see Roe ended.
There is only one reasonable response to such perfidy and that is determined, sustained and unrelenting resistance. Are mainstream Americans ready to fight back, or are they still traumatized by Trump-era fatigue? In January, I wrote a column anticipating Roe being overturned:
“I’m placing my bets on all hell breaking loose if Roe v. Wade is eliminated or downsized to the point of irrelevancy. With gay marriage I’ve seen what happens when rights that people enjoy are stripped away by a right-wing fundamentalist minority. Unlike gay marriage, reproductive choice impacts far more people and will have a significantly greater political fallout. An overconfident Republican Party might find that by winning in court this Summer, their dreams of winning back Congress are swiftly aborted.”
If my prediction is wrong and the reaction to this monstrosity is lethargic, America as we know it is finished. If conservatives get away with overturning Roe, gay rights are next on the chopping block. Just like with abortion, the High Court will rule that marriage equality and legalizing sodomy were decided incorrectly. They will use their cynical and ridiculous interpretation of constitutional law to say, “Where does it mention sodomy or gay marriage in the constitution?”
In their warped minds, the U.S. Constitution is a dead document forever frozen in a time when some of the country’s founders owned slaves, women couldn’t vote, and LGBTQ people were considered “sodomites” who were punished with imprisonment and death.
A weak reaction to overturning Roe would also further imperil abortion rights nationwide. If anyone is naïve enough to think that these religious nuts will be content with allowing abortion to be legal in Blue States, think again. According to the New York Times:
Leaving abortion law to state legislatures has been a goal of the anti-abortion movement, though some would prefer to go further, establishing a national policy that would end abortion throughout the United States. Such a goal cannot be achieved simply by overturning Roe. It would require federal action — or a different Supreme Court ruling that grants constitutional rights to fetuses.
What the American majority needs to do is stand up and fight back against such tyranny. This starts with large protests in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, as well as in major cities and in all 50 state capitals. Next, lawmakers in blue states need to strengthen laws affirming abortion, while adding protections to women who flee Red States to terminate pregnancies. Blue States should also add laws criminalizing any vigilante, private investigator or state employee who crosses state lines to investigate whether a woman who resides in a red state had an abortion.
Next, we should commit to radical noncompliance and work to undermine the effectiveness of the ruling. The Supreme Court wants to limit abortions, we should ensure they are easier to get than ever. The abortion pill exists and must be made widely available. If the U.S. government is unable to stop tons of cocaine, marijuana and crystal meth from entering the country, despite spending billions of dollars on interdiction, how would they stop the distribution of tiny abortion pills that fit in envelopes? National and international networks need to be greatly expanded and legally protected by Blue States.
A decisive factor in this battle will be how corporate America reacts. The Republican Party has veered towards authoritarianism and is increasingly at odds with Big Business. The most vivid example is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis punishing Disney for speaking out against the state’s odious “Don’t Say Gay” law. We ought to use the abortion ruling to hasten the split between corporate America and the Republican Party.
Corporations must be pressured to move their headquarters from Red States into Blue ones that respect women’s rights. If they refuse to relocate, they need to, at a bare minimum, offer the option for employees to work remotely. No one should be forced to live in Gilead to earn a living.
Much of corporate America’s decisions to leave will be voluntary and dictated by market necessity. Top college recruits with options, particularly women and liberal men, will not choose to work in oppressive, backward states. Faced with losing the brightest and best minds, corporations, particularly in tech, will conclude that states outlawing abortion and limiting LGBTQ equality are no longer viable. The decision to overturn Roe will likely harm tech-friendly cities with unfortunate Red State geography – such as Austin, Atlanta and Miami. Blue state governors should accelerate this process by actively and publicly courting firms that are open to moving.
In terms of politics, Democrats were just handed a gift in a difficult midterm election year. They now have a simple but effective message to impart: The Republicans are too radical and risky to trust with power. The GOP is the party of insurrection and ending Roe, imagine what they would do if handed power in Washington?
Democrats need to steal a page from Republicans and stop being so damn nice. Cut the “my friend and esteemed colleague” crap and start referring to Republicans as “coat hanger conservatives”. The Freedom Caucus should henceforth be known as the “Coup Caucus.”
Democrats should also promise to impeach the illegitimate Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch the very moment they have the numbers to do so. It’s time to unsparingly go after these fascists who are working to delegitimize the court, undermine our institutions, decimate human rights and abolish democracy. Furthermore, every single “moderate” that gave cover to Republicans who orchestrated this abortion ruling, such as Sen. Susan Collins, needs to be excoriated.
Finally, we can all do our part by highlighting on social media the ill-impact of laws banning abortion. In the early 1960s, Cook County Hospital in Chicago was treating more than 4,000 women a year for life-threatening effects of botched illegal abortions. Let’s ensure that the contemporary era of such abortions are aired on Tik Tok and Instagram. We should also take the opportunity to expose hypocritical anti-abortion conservatives who take their daughters to Blue States for abortions. There will be no shortage of such two-faced charlatans who don’t practice what they preach.
If Roe is abolished, the Center for Reproductive Rights estimates that abortion clinics in 22 states would immediately close, representing 42 percent of American women of childbearing age. Roughly half of women who are unable to access a legal abortion would probably instead bear children, additional research suggests.
This is a do-or-die moment for the continued existence of a free, democratic, pluralistic America. We simply cannot allow a McConnell-installed right-wing Supreme Court, representing a minority of Americans, to force-feed us its archaic, religious worldview. This ideologically based ruling and activist court should not be respected but resisted. If we don’t show some fight now, we can forget about the future.
Wayne Besen is an author, talkshow host and LGBTQ advocate. He is Executive Director of Truth Wins Out, an LGBTQ organization that fights the Religious Right and monitors "ex-gay" conversion therapy programs.