Opinion | Roxane Gay: The Roe v. Wade Draft Decision Shows It’s Time to Rage


We should not live in a country where bodily autonomy can be granted or taken away by nine political appointees, most of whom are men and cannot become pregnant. Any civil right contingent upon political whims is not actually a civil right.

Without the right to abortion, women are forced to make terrible choices. These burdens disproportionately fall upon poor and working-class women without the means to travel across state lines to receive the care they need. Despite Promises from the anti-abortion movement to support pregnant women and children, the “pro-life” lobby appears to be invested only in the unborn. The same mostly male politicians who oppose fees so often do everything in their power to oppose rights to paid parental leave, subsidized child care, single-payer health care or any kind of social safety net that could improve family life.

The leaked document is a draft. Abortion is still legal, though it is largely inaccessible in parts of the country. The Supreme Court has issued an emphasizing statement that the draft, while authentic, may still change. Still, it is a harbinger of terrible things to come. As many as 25 states are poised to ban abortion the moment Roe v. Wade is overturned.

And there are other disturbing considerations in the draft decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito. Some have expressed the concern that by extending Justice Alito’s reasoning, other hard-won rights — such as the rights to contraception and marriage marriage — could be struck down too. That is to say, this decision is opening the door for social progress and civil rights to be systematically dismantled on the most absurd of pretexts.

And this is not a theoretical threat. We are already seeing how several states are trying to legislate trans people out of existence with laws banning gender-affirming health care for children and, in Missouri, a proposed law could extend that denial to adults.

I do not know where this retraction of civil rights will end, but I do know it will go down as a milestone in a decades-long conservative campaign to force a country of 330 million people to abide by a bigoted set of ideologies. This movement seeks to rule by hollow theocracy, despite our constitutional separation of church and state. The people behind this campaign do not represent the majority of this country, and they know it, so they consistently try to demote the democratic process. They attack voting rights, gerrymander voting districts and shove unpopular legislation through so that they can live in a world of their choosing and hoard as much power and wealth as possible.

Where do we go from here? To protect women’s bodily autonomy, the right to abortion must be codified in federal law. But the possibility of that seems very distant. In their joint statement, issued after the Supreme Court leak, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, did not use the word “abortion” even once. President Biden has barely uttered it during his presidency. It’s hard to believe they are as committed as they need to be to protect a right whose name they dare not speak. Until the Democrats stop lounging in the middle of the political aisle — where no one is coming to meet them — nothing will change.


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