With the US Supreme Court allegedly one step away from reversing Roe vs. Wade, it is possible that progressives won’t be the only ones feeling a growing sense of apprehension in the upcoming weeks. Very likely, many conservatives as well will be looking with some concern at the end of June when the final decision of the court about abortion will become official.
It may seem like a contradiction but, despite the fact that the evangelical, fundamentalist right has been trying for a long time to abolish the right to abortion, the prospect of a final victory in this decade-long battle presents also certain risks that the Republican leadership is well aware of.
As already highlighted by judge Sonia Sotomayor last December during oral arguments, the Supreme Court’s decision to re-examine the constitutionality of abortion had already dealt a serious blow to the credibility of a court that, to begin with, enjoyed a very low approval rating among the public.
In doing so the conservative squad that form the majority of the nine judges, chose to ignore a pillar of American jurisprudence: the legal principle “stare decisis” which establishes the primacy of legal precedents (in this case Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey) asserting that if an issue has already been debated in court and settled by a sentence, it cannot be called into question again.
In truth, the steady decline of the US Supreme Court began in 2017 when the Republican-led Senate appointed Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia, denying then-President Barack Obama the prerogative to appoint his candidate Merrick Garland.
The pretext used by the GOP to trample on decades of established practice was the approaching of a presidential election that was still almost a year away. A laughable pretext then hypocritically ignored three years later when Trump appointed Amy Coney Barrett when another presidential election had already begun.
The ethical bankruptcy of the Supreme Court has recently become even more evident with the discovery of the role played by Virginia Thomas, wife of Judge Clarence Thomas, in fomenting the uprising of January 6th which culminated in the assault on the Capitol by supporters of former president Trump.
In light of this, Monday’s anonymous leak that revealed the court’s intentions to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion is just the latest chapter in the gradual loss of legitimacy by an institution that has traditionally established its authority on the public perception of its super-partes role.
Back to the abortion issue, in the short term, a potential threat for conservatives is that the final decision of the Supreme Court, expected for the weeks between June and July 2022, will come at a time when the campaign for the midterm elections will be ramping up.
Reversing Roe vs Wade at that time, could galvanize a public opinion that, according to surveys, remains strongly in favor of legal abortion and not just in democratic states.
In case of a repeal of Roe, the decision power would pass to the states, and in those where the effects will be felt the most, are all politically controlled by Republican legislatures that, once freed from current federal constraints, will immediately make the procedure illegal.
But the main risk in the repeal of the law for the GOP is yet another. Aside from providing tax relief to wealthy people and corporations, the Republican Party of the post-Trump era seems to have abandoned any intention to actually govern the country. Their main purpose is simply to safeguard their positions of power by employing increasingly authoritarian methods such as vote suppression and the continuous stoking of social resentment based on so-called “culture war issues”
And it is precisely thanks to this last point that making abortion illegal could prove counterproductive for the GOP, a party that, lacking even a clear and defined political agenda, bases its electoral consensus on fanning the flames of division among social groups through issues like the right to bear arms, Critical Race Theory and the abortion controversy.
A possible, final victory on this long-standing issue, would therefore extinguish one of the main hotbeds of resentment that the party has cynically and artificially fed for years in order to keep up the level of outrage that activates and mobilizes its base and that Donald Trump, waiting in the wings for 2024, is a master at manipulating.