Standing up in a post-Roe world

I am sure you don’t need me to tell you this: in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which established Constitutional protections for abortion, as part of a 6-3 ruling to uphold an abortion ban in Mississippi. The decision is a devastating rollback of the rights of women and so many others.

In the wake of the decision, Justice Clarence Thomas has called for overturning several other cases, including Obergefell v. Hodges and Lawrence v. Texas. This would, of course, be the end for a lot of LGBTQ rights wins in the courts in this century.

It is notable that Thomas stopped short of considering the reversal of Loving v. Texas, perhaps because that one — unlike the others — he has a personal investment in keeping intact. Thomas is in an interracial marriage, and enjoys the legal protections gained via the Loving decision.

Much like Thomas, the other conservatives on the Supreme Court telegraphed their willingness to overturn Roe late last year, and a leaked copy of the decision just a few weeks back showed exactly where things were bound to go. We should be prepared for Lawrence, Griswold, and Obergefell to fall as soon as the next session.

As dire as this is, however, I want to light an even more urgent fire: at their heart, the fight for abortion rights and the fight for trans rights as intertwined. Both are very much about body autonomy, and who has a say over what you can and cannot do with your own flesh. We cannot have a robust trans rights movement without being a part of the abortion rights movement.

For that matter, transgender people who happen to have uteri have just as much to lose by this ruling. A large part of the transgender community is directly affected by the loss of Roe.

There has been a lot of anger directed not just against conservatives, but also democrats in the wake of this ruling, with many — including myself — arguing that they are not doing enough. On the very day Roe was overturned, we saw members of congress take to the steps of the capitol — and sign God Bless America. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded by reading a poem.

Further, the Democrats have seized this moment to return to their regular messaging around voting. I, who have voted in every election since I came of age to do so, am nonplussed by this.

I did not, after all, vote for a poet nor a church choir. I voted for lawmakers, and I expect them to do everything they can to codify the rights lost to this illegitimate Supreme Court.

At the same time, I know that I’m not their audience for this message: it’s the roughly 80 million people who did not vote in 2020, who are probably not that fired up about 2022 or 2024. If they stay home, and the congress flips to Republican control, we will see no further positive action to protect body autonomy or civil rights — likely for a generation.

Yet, “just vote” isn’t the answer, and it is cold comfort for those who do show up. We need a congress and a President who are not just saying the right words — when they are not singing, or course — but are acting on the needs of the people. If all they can do is once again plead for votes, then what is their purpose in Washington, DC?

If I may, it is as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” We know where the GOP stands, but what will our allies in the Democratic Party do at this juncture? This is a time for bold moves — not reciting poems.

In the end, however, it isn’t about the Supreme Court, or the Democrats, or even the President. In the end, it is up to us.

There are nine justices on the Supreme Court. There are 525 members of congress.

There are 329 million or so Americans, and we need to understand that the only person who is going to save us is ourselves. We can’t expect anyone else to do the job for us.

We will need to donate to abortion rights causes, and volunteer for same. It will finally be time to address the subject with friends and family, especially those who will be difficult to converse with. It is time to take to the streets, to the airwaves, to anyplace we can. It is time to be ready to fight back — metaphorically and otherwise.

Yes, those of us who haven’t gone to the ballot box had best go and do so, presuming we can. Yet we also need to be calling on our representatives, from either side of the aisles, and let your voice be heard. Our opponents are counting on our complacency, and expecting us to feel demoralized and afraid.

In the last few days, many tears have been shed over this decision, mine included. At the same time, many of us are fired with rage at the stripping away of our rights.  When a blacksmith crafts an object, they will often take the red-hot metal and quench it in water and other substances to rapidly cool it down, strengthening the piece.

Your tears and your rage are powerful. Use it to anneal yourself into the most effective version of you, a tougher self, ready to fight back.

They’ve taken enough from us. Let’s not hand them anything else for free.

Gwen Smith will not cede an inch. You’ll find her at www.gwensmith.com/.