So, I had a bit of a commute today and listened to the nearly two hour Supreme Court of the United States oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health on Dec. 1 regarding reproductive rights. You can listen here or read the transcript here.
In our relationship to the state, nothing is as significant, or worth safeguarding, than our bodily autonomy.
I have a hard time understanding arguments that try to flow otherwise and obviously, the reason abortion seems like a contentious issue is that the so-called viability of the fetus would seem to contradict the aforementioned bodily autonomy. But it does not.
Whatever one thinks of abortion as a practice, the outcome of having the state vested with control of women’s bodily autonomy (and in a hodgepodge fashion, where some are free in, say New York, but not Texas) is a far worse outcome to consider for a whole host of reasons.
You own your body. That’s the first principle from which virtually everything else we understand to be our rights, and again, that orientation with regards to the state, follows. That first principle can’t be overcome.
People with far more legal know-how have argued that Roe and Casey are bad law and therefore, bad precedent worth overturning. Even if that’s the case, and again, I’m not smart enough to adjudicate that, I think allowing states to infringe on that first principle is worse.
Furthermore, this idea brought up by Justice Amy Coney Barrett and also supported by Scott Stewart — the solicitor general of Jackson, Mississippi, on behalf of the petitioners who are looking to not only uphold the state law banning abortion after 15 weeks, but to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the decision-making on abortion back to the states — regarding “safe havens” is nonsense.
Yes, I’m glad that safe havens do exist as an alternative to abortions, if a woman decides she doesn’t want to have an abortion, but also isn’t ready to have a child. However, the point is, it’s an “alternative,” not the only avenue for a woman, if she didn’t have the legal, safe remedy of an abortion. And again, it is the state telling a woman, go through with your pregnancy (which is not as safe in the United States as elsewhere) and then put the child up for adoption (never mind all the arguments about the adoption system). I do not and cannot ever support such a ridiculous, anti-bodily autonomy notion.
In addition, throughout the oral arguments, Justice Clarence Thomas kept asking Julie Rikelman and Elizabeth Prelogar, the attorney and solicitor general, respectively, speaking in oral arguments for the respondents, where the right to an abortion stems from: Is it a due process issue? Privacy? Something else?
And I don’t know, it seems simple enough to me: It’s an all-of-the-above approach when you’re dealing with bodily autonomy and choice. By infringing upon that bodily autonomy and choice, the state is violating due process, privacy, liberty, all of it.
Also, as an aside to all of this, I do have to note (and I can hear the groans already): Is the Supreme Court the last institution in America that actually runs in a civil manner? There’s no clownish or boorish behavior here. Yes, many disagree with Stewart (or, for that matter, many disagree with Rikelman and Prelogar), but I have to at least respect the idea that it’s happening in a civil forum and manner.
I’d love to write more about this, but it’s late, so those are my off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts and reactions to the oral arguments without doing further research and opining on the legalese part of it.