Anyone who grew up in the Christian Right could have told you that Roe v. Wade was never “settled law,” despite what the pundits said. We conservative evangelicals were always sincerely gunning for Roe. I was born on July 1, 1980, not quite two months before Ronald Reagan famously uttered “I endorse you” to an audience of about 17,000 evangelical Christians gathered in Dallas, Texas for an event billed as The National Affairs Briefing.
Over the course of my childhood, we consolidated our power in the Republican Party, as traditionalist Catholics—at least in my more “respectable” evangelical milieu—came to be regarded less as “idolators,” and more as merely “misguided,” since, after all, they held the “correct” Christian position on abortion. Catholic Supreme Court justices were fine as long as they ruled “our” way—and right-wing Catholic justices have consistently delivered.
I checked out of evangelicalism about two decades ago, although it took me into my 30s before I’d processed things enough to begin clearly and consistently speaking out on what’s wrong with white evangelical theology and culture. But I always knew that if the Christian Right gained enough power, Roe would go.
I’ve been warning for years of the imminent possibility, and I’d like to think that once Roe is officially gone, our elite media gatekeepers might begin to think twice about dismissing exvangelicals as “bitter” people with an “axe to grind,” as opposed to stakeholders in the national conversation about religion and politics who have important insights into evangelicalism, since many of us are still closely connected to and heavily affected by it.
Though of course if that does happen—and I’m not holding my breath—it will be cold comfort in the face of the massive harm already being done by the emboldened theocratic fascists who have been unleashed in part due to the obliviousness of mainstream liberalism. When Roe falls, the entire legal scaffolding that upholds our rights to access contraception, to access gender-affirming healthcare, to engage in consensual same-sex relationships and enter into same-sex marriages, and even to interracial marriage, falls with it.
Alito’s leaked opinion draft essentially invites legal challenges to these rights that he sees as not “deeply rooted” in American history. And Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma—the state that sentenced Britney Poolaw to prison for “manslaughter” because she had a miscarriage—aren’t even waiting for Roe to be officially struck down before legislating as if it already has been. The state legislature just passed a bill banning almost all abortions starting at conception.
Only two weeks ago, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a six-week abortion ban that, like Texas’s infamous SB8, calls on private citizens to enforce the law by filing lawsuits not only against anyone who performs an abortion for an Oklahoman in need, but also anyone who “aids or abets” an Oklahoman in accessing abortion care. This newly passed bill, which Stitt will most likely sign, retains the cruel and bizarre “bounty hunter” enforcement mechanism pioneered in Texas while banning abortion from conception except to save the life of the mother. The bill does not include exceptions for rape or incest.
As The New York Times reports, the law’s enforcement language also extends to those who help pay for abortions, a provision that’s likely to have a chilling effect on organizing efforts aimed at helping people in Republican-controlled states who need abortions to be able to have them out of state, even if the fundraising is done outside Oklahoma.
If signed into law, Oklahoma’s new bill will be the first state law passed that explicitly defines an “unborn child” as present at conception, a key goal for proponents of “fetal personhood.” And Oklahoma legislators aren’t even trying to hide the religious motivations for their actions, which would certainly make them unconstitutional under any reasonable interpretation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. “We believe that God has a special plan for every single life and every single child, and we want everybody to have the same opportunities in Oklahoma, and aborting a child is not the right answer,” Stitt recently told Fox News Sunday.
While the Oklahoma law states it does not apply to birth control, the twisted logic of “fetal personhood” ultimately cannot coexist with access to some IUDs, which, in addition to preventing fertilization, can prevent implantation of fertilized eggs, and very likely Plan B (despite the fact that, contrary to popular belief, it does not work by preventing the implantation of fertilized eggs). And there is no reason to believe that birth control won’t be tackled in separate bills. Indeed, right-wingers are already strategizing about possible contraception bans. The horrors playing out in Oklahoma are only the beginning of the fascist onslaught to come.