A True Catastrophe

Incredible but sad and horribly true: Women will no longer be able to control their own bodies as they deem fit in half of the states in the U.S. This country boasts that is among the democracies that most vigorously protect the rights of its citizens, but with an ultraconservative majority ensconced by Donald Trump in the highest court of the land, women’s rights are at half-mast. It is a revolting setback.

The decision was expected and surprised no one, but it is no less catastrophic nevertheless. As soon as the decision came down on Wednesday morning, anti-abortion activists jubilantly celebrated the end of Roe v. Wade in front of the Supreme Court, while the pro-abortion camp, looked with horror at the immediate consequences for the fundamental freedom of women to control their own bodies. In at least half of American states, it is expected that abortion will be limited or prohibited, since the states again have the legal authority to regulate abortion. Some states reacted immediately by threatening legislation limiting or outlawing access to the procedure.

This is a dark day. While advances are noted around the world in women’s reproductive health, and while countries long led by very religious groups are, little by little, loosening barriers in order to restore the choice to women that they deserve, one of the largest nations in the world is turning back 50 years. Democratic President Joe Biden, helplessly watches the erosion of women’s rights; and together with his supporters, is relegated to the legacy of his predecessor Donald Trump who gave prominent seats on the Supreme Court to ultraconservatives whose ideologies could continue to destroy what has been achieved.

Six justices –- three of whom were nominated by Trump –- agreed that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was “completely erroneous.” The majority wrote that “The authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.” The Supreme Court demolished with impunity years of bitter struggle for the protection of the right to abortion. We know, unfortunately, the dark result that awaits women: Clinics will shut down; citizens will have to travel thousands of miles and pay money they do not have in order to find services; illegal and dangerous procedures will take place clandestinely. A real horror show.

This decision slashes rights, but it hides another scandal: a court that does not reflect the will of the American people. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 61% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or some situations, and on the other side, 37% feel that it should be illegal in all or some situations. Public opinion varies depending on how certain variables are defined — for example, the stage of pregnancy. With this immense social reversal, the Supreme Court thus disputes the will of the people.

Thursday, the court handed down another retrograde opinion that runs contrary to common sense, by invalidating a New York law restricting gun possession — and this, in the midst of a political debate intended to lead to the opposite outcome nationwide; i.e., once again, contrary to the will of the majority of citizens who want concrete measures to reduce firearm deaths. In a 6-3 decision, the court invalidated a law imposing limits on carrying handguns in public spaces. This regressive departure occurred barely a few weeks after the Uvalde and Buffalo killings. On June 21, Democratic and Republican senators, nevertheless, signaled a possible major advance by proposing a bill to better control the sale of weapons.

The legislative, executive, and the judiciary: Three branches of U.S. government dance to different beats against a divide between the Democratic and conservative camps. The judicial branch, led by a conservative fringe, has decided to whittle away at progress, and has just shown how far it can extend its reach, giving back to those states that toe their line the opportunity to impose within their borders a law conforming to their values.

These days, the investigation by the House Select Committee on the January 6th Attack on the Capitol, is allowing us to examine the scale of what Trump orchestrated. He promoted a masquerade of election fraud; he encouraged his supporters to storm the Capitol; he sought to subjugate the judiciary and force it to validate his lie. Such casual and crass impunity is a malodorous legacy whose odor is spreading across the country and weakening the rights of citizens.

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