Unquestionably, Maya Angelou’s most famous quote is: “If someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.” Current events lead one to seriously question whether people are hearing the radical right and listening to where they are intent on taking the country. If we questioned the true meaning of the phrase “Make America Great Again,” it should be clear to us now. For practical purposes, legal abortion is dead in the United States.
I’ve discussed ad nauseum the torrent of lies that issue from their mouths in the style of their orange leader, but among those lies rests the truth of their viciousness and evil. I have suggested before, and am now even more convinced, that the intent of Republican acolytes and the conservative base is to return the country to that point in time where women were subjugated to men and people of color knew their “place,” whether force needs to be used for that purpose or not.
The most recent travesty is the adoption of Texas’ new anti-abortion law and the Supreme Court turning a blind eye to its unconstitutionality. This law outlaws legal abortions after six weeks or when viability can be established with a fetal heartbeat. Few women even know they have become pregnant within a six-week window. Adding insult to injury, SCOTUS has refused injunctive relief for appeals and challenges.
This law has been labeled by progressive broadcasters as the most egregious anti-abortion law in history. I agree! Not only does it outlaw legal abortions after six weeks, but it also makes no exceptions for rape or incest. One can only imagine the distress of having to carry your rapist’s child full-term. Contrary to what most perceive, this would be a child conceived in violence and given birth with a measure of hate.
“Legal standing” is a way of indicating that a person has an interest in the outcome of a situation or circumstance, or that a person can be injured — physically or emotionally — by the outcome of an action. This dystopian law gives legal standing to any citizen of the United States and allows her/him to bring a lawsuit against anyone who participated or assisted in an abortion process. Beyond any moral outrage, the person bringing the lawsuit also has a monetary incentive. If the complaint is upheld, the complainant must pay the plaintiff the sum of $10,000 and any legal fees. If the complaint is defeated, there is no penalty for bringing a false claim. This law is genuinely draconian.
Fewer and fewer people are still alive who remember the time before Roe v. Wade was decided on Jan. 22, 1973. Generations of women now live without the memories of back-alley abortions. There are fewer memories of bent wire coat hangers used as surgical tools to perform the illegal abortion. There are gravestones that mark the final resting places of young women who died from infection, perforated uteruses or a myriad of complications associated with the desperation of an unsanctioned medical procedure. Unfortunately, we can anticipate a recurrence of these events, impacting primarily, as they did before, on the poor and young women of color.
If past is prologue, we can also anticipate the wealthy unencumbered by any anti-abortion law. Just as they did before Roe, they will send their daughters out of the country where a safe procedure can be performed. They might even find a local physician who will take an under-the-table payment to perform an abortion — just as was done before Roe.
To where they are taking women back is now clear. The only question left is where they will attempt to take others who they deem as “second class” or “less than.”
Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women.