Not all change is what we’d like; not all change is healthy or desired. The only certainty about it is its inevitability. Change always comes.
Yesterday’s SCOTUS decision in Dobbs came as a surprise to me; judging by the narrowness of the scope that had been determined when the case first was approved for review, a result this wide-ranging appeared unlikely, even improper. And yet, here we are.
But where is that, exactly?
Well, for one thing, there are twenty-odd states which are about to either outlaw or drastically restrict access to abortion except in cases where it’s medically necessary, with “trigger” laws which will automatically come into effect following the judgment. There is a similar number of states which won’t. As a result, today we’re in a country where abortion is available for those who can afford to travel.
Last week New York was a state where concealed carry permits were available for those who could afford to bribe a cop; that’s changed too, but in the other direction.
We know that Roe has been overturned; with that goes all the clarification we had in Casey. Many subordinate judgments will be reversed, despite the wording in the text to the contrary. The Bolton decision, which protects the right to late-term abortions in the case of health risks, still stands, but may become challengeable. Further implications for patient privacy, including the foundation for HIPAA, may be endangered by the Dobbs ruling. This won’t be simple, and it won’t stop with abortion (or child support).
Starting tonight, there will be protests; some will get violent. They won’t change anything by themselves, but what they represent will: A deepening dissatisfaction with our present method of government is making itself felt. It’s been with us a while; it was behind Obama’s victory and then Trump’s, and it drove Bernie’s successes. Without the polarizing impact of the Dobbs case, we might have seen both parties fracture; now, perhaps the Republicans will, but not the DNC.
According to the betting markets, last week, the Democrats were on their way to a well-deserved shellacking in the midterm elections followed by a landslide presidential defeat against virtually anyone but Trump. Today, all bets are off (in a manner of speaking, that is; traffic at PredictIt is spiking. The American electorate is fairly crass where money is involved).
Not that it’ll matter; not really. Unless something drastic happens, there won’t be enough of a Democratic majority in Congress to address abortion by statute for the foreseeable future (again, unless Trump runs) and the makeup of SCOTUS will remain stable for years. Tensions will rise; polarization will increase; dissatisfaction will become the new normal. Acts of politically motivated violence will become more common, and among many will even be privately applauded.
It is in moments like this that an heroic act of statesmanship could preempt decades of otherwise entirely predictable political turmoil. This week, an historic compromise on gun control passed Congress and was signed into law — the first effective legislation in years coming from one of the post polarized political environments since the last Civil War. A similar compromise providing a minimal federal structure for abortion rights would meet the approval of the overwhelming majority of voters — upwards of 80% by Gallup poll — and would drastically reduce the chaos and unfair access that’s about to occur.
Yes, it’s possible — but from where I sit it appears unlikely. Republicans won’t want to compromise after what they view as a victory; the DNC party machinery won’t want to discard their best hope at winning the next election.
Perhaps I’m being overly cynical. And, even if I’m not: Things can change, and always will.
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