It’s been six days since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and provided ultimate judicial authority for the wave of woman-hating activism against abortion rights that has engulfed red states like Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. Here’s a passage from early in President Biden’s speech in reaction:
Fifty years ago, Roe v. Wade was decided and has been the law of the land since then. This landmark case protected a woman’s right to choose, her right to make intensely personal decisions with her doctor, free from the inter- — from interference of politics. It reaffirmed basic principles of equality — that women have the power to control their own destiny. And it reinforced the fundamental right of privacy — the right of each of us to choose how to live our lives. Now, with Roe gone, let’s be very clear: The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk.
During that time, Democrats have been embroiled in arguments about whether President Biden and Congressional Democrats are at all effective and whether voting is worth it.
The arguments for Democratic leadership uselessness largely comes from the Sanders Hard Left but are also being energetically posed on twitter by figures like Stephen Robinson and Oliver Willis. For example, Willis poses the Democrats as weak and vacillating Gotham City type figures stupidly refusing to stand up to the Joker.
The counter-argument to “Democratic uselessness” is that the Court was lost because of the relentless attacks on Hillary in 2016 and specifically the rejection by Sanders of Hillary’s warnings about losing the Supreme Court if Trump was elected. Biden Democrats also point out that many of the solutions being proposed to the Court’s overturning Roe are either far-fetched or offensive. The offensiveness is especially true of the proposal to use tribal land as a haven for abortion rights but many Democrats also point out that proposals by Elizabeth Warren and others to use federal property or military bases for abortions would run afoul of the Hyde Amendment which bans the use of federal money for abortions. Likewise, the specter of Republican retaliation makes others highly skeptical of overturning the filibuster or expanding the Court.
It isn’t true that President Biden has done nothing. On the day Roe was reversed, Biden proposed to
- Codify Roe v Wade into federal law
- Guarantee that women can travel to states where abortions are available
- Protect women’s access to abortion pills and contraception.
- Seek to elect more Democrats to “restore the protections of Roe as the law of the land.
After the Alito draft leaked, the White House engaged with “dozens of representatives from reproductive rights groups, state legislators and private law experts to discuss a path forward.” My guess is that the meetings were either private or conducted with as little publicity as possible because I don’t remember much in the way of advanced publicity, public forums, news conferences, or media comment. There will be another meeting with blue state governors on July 1 and President Biden called today for the Senate to carve out an exception to the filibuster in order to re-establish a national right to abortions. Unfortunately, occasional Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona shot that down in the name of her undying commitment to preserving the filibuster.
According to CNN, Vice-President Kamala Harris was heavily involved in the discussions many of which focused on the possibility of state police agencies gathering information from menstrual tracking apps.
Harris has also assumed a leading role, convening her own discussions with advocates, faith leaders and law experts to collect different perspectives and policy ideas on how the administration could intervene to ensure the protection of certain safety and security rights should Roe be overturned. In a conversation on June 14 that focused on privacy, Harris was focused in part on questions about digital technology like period trackers, according to Melissa Murray, a constitutional lawyer and reproductive rights expert from New York University who participated in the discussion. “She was right there, asking really good questions, thinking about not only the sort of nuances of the issue, but also what’s the best way to explain this to the public so that they understand what’s actually at stake,” Murray said of the conversation.
As I’ve stated on twitter, these proposals and this consultation with “stakeholders” are definitely something rather than nothing. But it’s also far from being enough considering “the enormity of the Supreme Court taking away rights from more than half the American population.” In particular, the Biden administration needs to give up its preference for “inside politics” and conduct its resistance to abortion bans and promotion of women’s rights out in public and on both small and large scales. In the short term, the Biden people could:
1. Publicly coordinate with activists in abortion states which means President Biden, Vice-President Harris, and the many well known women in the Biden administration traveling to abortion ban states, meeting and publicizing pro-abortion and women’s rights activists, coordinating federal policy with the imperatives and needs of abortion rights activists, and promoting abortion rights activists and activism in the media;
2. Formulate federal policies that set standards for medical care in abortion ban states and seek to prevent states like Texas from letting women die from miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other hazards of pregnancy in their hospitals;
3. Host legal critics of Alito’s belligerent decision for a public WH conference on abortion rights and their moral and Constitutional justification. One issue that could be addressed by legal critics is the issue of expanding the Courts to re-establish full citizenship for women and protect the citizenship rights of other segments of the American population.
4. Hold large-scale rallies for women’s rights in both red states and blue states, encourage public agencies and private employers to give employees time off to attend rallies, and adapt “bans off our bodies” (which is an effective slogan) as a symbol of the resistance to abortion bans.
Given the failure of Build Back Better, the Biden administration has become more about managing the federal apparatus and engaging in foreign policy than anything else. However, the Biden administration needs to become more of an activist, resistance administration if they are going to be effective in helping women in the United States recover their full citizenship and fundamental rights.