The draft Supreme Court opinion published by Politico on May 2, if adopted by the Court, would not only deny American women the constitutional right to obtain an abortion, it would lay the legal foundation for reversing Supreme Court decisions that have long protected other basic sexual and health rights in the United States. While the draft claims to apply only to abortion, it quotes Justice Scalia in calling for most “important issues in our democracy” to be resolved “by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.” Under this reasoning, these rights would no longer enjoy constitutional protections. If a decision along the lines of the leaked draft is adopted by the Court, it would put several fundamental constitutional rights in jeopardy, such as the constitutional right to privacy that has been applied to protect Americans’ ability to obtain and use contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives like Plan B. It would also jeopardize the right of adults to engage in consensual sexual activities and the constitutional right to marry the spouse of one’s choice – rights to enter into interracial and same-sex marriages. The ripple effects of a decision like the leaked draft likely would adversely affect Americans of virtually every sexual orientation.
While the leaked opinion is a draft, not a final decision of the Court, it is clear that a decision reversing or gutting Roe v. Wade is forthcoming. A flood of restrictive state laws limiting abortion is likely to follow. By some estimates, over half of the states either already have abortion prohibitions on the books (laws that preceded Roe v. Wade but have been unenforceable since that decision), or have recently passed or are likely to pass these laws based on the reversal of Roe. Republican-controlled state legislatures are also introducing bills to outlaw IUDs and certain infertility treatments like IVF. This is not an outcome most Americans want. While there are significant regional differences, a recent poll found that nationwide Americans support the right to an abortion as set forth in the Roe and Casey decisions by a 2-to-1 margin.
Republican-controlled states are also likely to propose laws restricting other sexual and health rights that we have come to take for granted. Many anti-abortion groups, as well as many elements of the Republican Party, support ending constitutional protections for a wide array of other health and sexual practices. If control of Congress flips this November, as is possible, Congressional Republicans are likely to promote legislation that would abolish rights to a number of sexual and health freedoms nationwide. President Biden would likely veto such legislation, but with Republicans in control of both halves of Congress, some highly restrictive provisions could become law. The coming struggle to preserve the sexual and health choices we now enjoy will be long and it will be fought on many fronts.
Sexual and health rights are very much in danger in Virginia as well, despite press reports leaving it off lists of states that may adopt restrictive legislation. Virginia is narrowly divided today, with Republicans having the upper hand. The Virginia House of Delegates is controlled by Republicans, and Democrats hold only a two-vote edge in the state Senate. The governor is a conservative Republican reportedly interested in running for President who has demonstrated an interest in fomenting partisan rancor. In 2020, Virginia became the first state in the South to roll back abortion restrictions and pass a Reproductive Health Protection Act, becoming a safe-haven state for patients who need abortion care. This law is now in danger of being overturned. In 2021, Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly introduced several bills that would reinstate Virginia’s abortion restrictions and are likely to introduce more in the coming years. Democrats in the state Senate can likely block them in committee for now, but when all of the seats in the Virginia House of Delegates and the state Senate are up for election in November 2023, sexual and health rights will very much be on the line.
It is time for everyone who cares about these freedoms to sign up to help keep our state and federal legislatures in Democratic hands. Start getting active now, and plan to contribute your time generously in both state and federal campaigns over the next two years. The only way to protect our fundamental sexual and health freedoms is to ensure that Democrats hold the majority in the bodies that enact the laws.
We need to keep the House, win the Senate, and elect Democrats down ballot who will protect our rights. You can start by joining two programs organized by Arlington Democrats that in recent years have been effective in electing Democrats up and down the ballot. Beyond Arlington works to help Democratic candidates outside Arlington, with an emphasis on canvassing and phone banking. It has been quite effective in over 100 races since its formal inception in late 2016. Beyond Arlington is already hard at work on this fall’s Congressional campaigns, both within Virginia and neighboring states. You can sign up for Beyond Arlington projects here.
Blue Families does similar work and is designed to enable parents with young children to fit work on behalf of progressive candidates into their busy schedules. Blue Families support selected Democratic candidates in Virginia and occasionally North Carolina and Pennsylvania by writing postcards, phone-banking and texting, and occasionally organizing trips to target districts for canvassing. You can review Blue Families projects in need of volunteers here.