January 23, 2017

Long March: To The Vineyard

Long March: To The Vineyard

That was a lot of people.

A friend – one of the very few Republicans I know – recently wrote a story suggesting the Democrats find an compromise with pro-Life anti-Trumpers. This is a fellow who knows a hell of a lot more than I know about politics. He knows a lot more than just about anyone.

I can’t figure this out how this would work.

Let’s assume that Roe and Griswold will soon be overridden, and that hundreds of Federal judicial appointments that ought to have been Obama’s will now be made by Trump and ratified by a feckless or impotent Senate. Let’s assume (optimistically) that the GOP adopts a Federal solution – regulation of abortion and birth control returns to the states. What would America look like then?

California, New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont will retain regulations that look a good deal like today’s. The Deep South will outlaw abortion and restrict birth control. Throughout the rest of the country, the politics will be brutal. But there will be lots of places where it's hard or illegal to obtain an abortion.

That means lots of women will again go on abortion vacations. That’s expensive, so there will be lots of fundraising to help poor women travel to free states. In states that try to enact restrictive controls on birth control (e.g. requiring parental consent for minors), there will be a more-or-less open black market in smuggled birth control, too.

The pro-Life zealots will hate that. District attorneys who want votes and publicity will crack down. Congress will be lobbied to pass laws against interstate transport for the purpose of obtaining an abortion. Prosecutors will try to shut down Planned Parenthood for criminal conspiracy.

Those marchers last Sunday knew that they were standing where abolitionists had stood. Every time a woman is killed or crippled by a back-alley abortion, her name will be read from the pulpits of New England churches -- Unitarian and Universalist churches that were, remember, born out of support for abolition and immigration. Every time a contraceptive smuggler is arrested, her name will be read from the pulpits of glass-walled megachurches. Denominations that have been neighbors for a century will again despise each other. The Catholic Church in the US will split in two.

People will not forswear sex because they will not give up love. We know this. Women won’t give up their sexual autonomy, wrested at long last from the iron grip of biology. They'll fight, and their friends, their lovers and their families will fight beside them. If they cannot stop the law, they will try to work around it. If they cannot save their sisters, there are not jails enough.

A wiser Trump would appoint a couple of socially-liberal, pro-business Southern women to the Supreme Court and kick the can down the road for another generation. A lucky Trump might pick a conservative prevaricator who could try to thread the needle. But the odds are, we may have a runaway court. I cannot see a calm and peaceful future in its wake.

The best compromise now available to pro-Life, anti-Trump Republicans is pretty much the status quo; this is, for them, the best of all possible worlds. It’s also deeply unacceptable to them. We’ve had this discussion for a generation. The vintage where they store the grapes of wrath is over there, and the fruit hangs heavy on the vine.