Jessica Mason Pieklo on abortion rights, Preston Mitchum on reproductive justice
This week on counter-turn: The Supreme Court’s reversal on abortion rights is so real and potentially devastating that it’s hard to know where to look. It’s worth tracing—Katherine Stewart in the Guardianamong other things, tells us how, at a time when most Protestant Republicans, including the Southern Baptist Convention, welcomed the liberalization of abortion law represented by deer, Christian nationalists, motivated by a desire to protect school segregation and tax exemptions for Christian schools, chose abortion as a way to unite conservatives across denominational barriers, providing a “focal point for concerns about social change”. Phyllis Schlafly wrote an entire book (How the Republican Party became pro-life) on the work involved in forcing the Republican Party to center abortion as a cause – which then became the longer-term effort to reframe “religious liberty” as an exemption from the law. The names of Paul “I don’t want everyone to vote” Weyrich and Bob Jones Sr. – who called segregation “God’s established order” – can also mean something to you.
As we look for the roots – which disabuses us of the idea that this specious “pro-life” political position is socially organic – we must also look for the branches: the other obvious and growing abuses of human rights and freedoms that are encouraged and fully intended by this decision. Elizabeth Nash and Lauren Cross of the Guttmacher Institute reported 536 abortion restrictions, including 146 abortion bans, introduced in 46 states last summer as right-wing ideologues “committed in a campaign of shock and awe against abortion rights as part of a massive and deliberate attack on fundamental rights that also includes a wave of voter suppression laws and attacks on LGBTQ people. It is important to see that, as Katherine Stewart writes, the Dobbs decision “marks the beginning rather than the end of the agenda this movement has in mind”.
Against this, those who believe in reproductive freedom will need better public arguments than what the liberal media has tended to offer: that abortion is a horrible thing that really should never happen, but should be legal nonetheless. . There is a hole in the middle of corporate media discourse on abortion, where one might say, as Katha Pollitt put it in her book PRO: that abortion is an “essential option” for all people, not only those who find themselves in “dramatic, terrible, body and soul destroying situations” – and that access to abortion “benefits to society as a whole”.
We’ll start with the many, multi-level, multi-angle, post-deer conversations we need to have with Jessica Mason Pieklo, senior vice president and editor of Rewire Press Groupwho has been denouncing reproductive rights for many years now.
And we’ll also hear a bit of a conversation we had last May – when we found out the Court had deer in the spotlight – with Preston Mitchum, URGE Group Policy Director, Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity. We spoke with him about putting deer— and justice decisions more generally — in the context of what has yet to happen, and has always needed, for reproductive justice to be a reality.