Vote as if your daughters' lives depend on it

York Dispatch editorial board
A crowd of people gather outside the Supreme Court, early Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Washington. A draft opinion circulated among Supreme Court justices suggests that earlier this year a majority of them had thrown support behind overturning the 1973 case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a report published Monday night in Politico. It's unclear if the draft represents the court's final word on the matter. The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the draft Politico posted, which if verified marks a shocking revelation of the high court's secretive deliberation process, particularly before a case is formally decided. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Five people are on the verge of throwing out nearly 50 years of precedent, and with it the expectation of privacy for all Americans. 

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled."

Those words are from a leaked draft of a proposed Supreme Court decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that would overturn both Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that allowed abortion throughout the country, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 case that affirmed Roe but allowed states to put some constraints on abortion access. 

Many have been expecting this since Mitch McConnell, then the Senate majority leader, refused to consider an Obama nominee after Justice Antonin Scalia died in January 2016.

McConnell then rushed through a confirmation in weeks after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September 2020. 

Five of the court's conservative justices — Chief Justice John Roberts seems to be in opposition — are ready to reset personal rights. Three of them, Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, said during their confirmation hearings within the past five years that Roe was settled case law. 

More:What happens if Roe v. Wade is overturned? In Pa., the answer depends on the November governor’s race

More:Planned Parenthood braces for post-Roe abortion demand in Pennsylvania

More:Leaked draft opinion says Supreme Court about to overturn Roe v. Wade: Report

More:As Supreme Court weighs abortion, Christians ponder meaning of ‘pro-life’

The repercussions from the opinion are staggering.

Immediately, 22 states have total or near-total bans on abortion ready to enforce as soon as Roe is nullified, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights organization that tracks the laws. Four more are considered likely to pass such a ban quickly. 

Texas' recent law banning abortion after six weeks has been allowed to go into effect despite Roe because it has a unique structure that lets people sue anyone who performs an abortion or helps a woman get an abortion. 

In Pennsylvania, the state Legislature has passed three bills to restrict abortion access in the past five years, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed each one. That would likely change if a Republican were elected governor in November.

Women seeking abortions in many states already have to endure ultrasounds, waiting periods, reading materials designed to discourage abortions and more before they are allowed to complete the overwhelmingly safe medical procedure. In the South and Midwest, women often have to travel for hours to the few clinics that remain open, then wait some more. 

With this decision, even that will be taken away as large swaths of the country eliminate abortion entirely, often not even allowing a woman or girl who has become pregnant due to rape or incest to end her pregnancy.

What should be a private medical decision concerning solely a woman and her doctor becomes a national crisis as desperate women find themselves making desperate choices.

But that's just the beginning.

“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives," reads the draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito. 

If the right to privacy enshrined for all Americans in Roe becomes a right to privacy only for Americans who live in states that allow it, many other seemingly settled matters can return to debate, with 50 chances for changes.

Obergefell v. Hodges, which allowed same-sex marriage in every state. Lawrence v. Texas, which held that all intimate sexual activity is covered by a right to privacy. Griswold v. Connecticut, which gave married women the right to contraception. Loving v. Virginia, which allowed interracial marriage.

All up for grabs in the name of states' rights.

This isn't what the American people want. In 2020, AP VoteCast found that 69% of voters in the presidential election said the Supreme Court should leave the Roe v. Wade decision as is; just 29% said the court should overturn the decision.

In general, AP-NORC polling finds a majority of the public favors abortion being legal in most or all cases.

>> Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.

Lawmakers have some tough decisions to make. To codify a national right to abortion in law, Democrats would have to do away with the filibuster in the Senate that requires 60 votes to pass nearly any bill of note.

Even that might not be enough if even one Democratic senator, namely Joe Manchin of West Virginia, decides to dig in his heels. 

Pennsylvania's Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is pro-life, and as such did not vote to pass the Women's Health Protection Act in February, which would have codified the right to abortion and made the Dobbs ruling moot if it had passed.

Since the Supreme Court is passing on the abortion question to the states, legislators and governors will be the ones to watch. And this is the time when every person must think clearly about their representatives.

Now is the time when we the people must stand up and vote. Vote in the primary and in the general election. Vote for the people who will stand up for your rights.

Vote as if your life and the lives of your daughters, wives, sisters and friends depend on it. Because they do.