Is America Really United?

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By Joshua Blake

About a week ago, the Supreme Court of the United States voted – in favor – to overturn the landmark ruling from 1973 that gave a woman the right to seek an abortion. This is an act that has never happened in the history of the country, and it has many people wondering what’s next? Myself included.

Per the syllabus of the ruling this past week, the Court claims “Like the infamous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, Roe was also egregiously wrong.” For those who lack the memory needed to recount the previous ruling, Plessy v. Ferguson upheld racial segregation in the United States per the “separate but equal” doctrine. The Court said a law which “implies merely a legal distinction” between white and Black people was not unconstitutional.

Jim Crow took affect not long after this decision and lasted well into the 1960s and even part ways into the 70s.

The decision in favor of Roe v. Wade passed in 1973, with the 14th Amendment providing strong ground for the ruling. It reads “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

To me, the key word there is “liberty.” I’ll get back to that in a minute, but it was the 14th Amendment that was also used in the 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. This made it so that segregation in American schools violated the 14th Amendment.

The 14th Amendment was used in both Roe v Wade and Brown v. Board of Education to grant liberty to people who didn’t have it explicitly beforehand. Liberty…has had an odd history here in the U.S., given that “Liberty” is something we’re granted based on a set of moral beliefs and not outright compassion for others.

The definition of Liberty is as such: the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views. A secondary definition gives “Liberty” a slightly different meaning, though: the power or scope to act as one pleases.

The odd thing about this definition is that it doesn’t account for nuance in how people approach collective and individual needs or beliefs. Something that should be simple, isn’t in practice.

In regards to abortion, specifically, people against the practice tend to see the act as infringing on the liberty and life of the unborn. Does that mean the life and liberty of the person who’s pregnant matters less? And if so, how much? Is that quantifiable? Should it be?

The religious beliefs centered around abortion are ones I do not understand, because I believe they contradict the idea of free will and the idea that we are made in God’s image. For example, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy states “God has given human beings free will and thus human beings can choose right from wrong.” This post goes on to say that many religions pertain to the idea that God has “foreknowledge,” that God is omniscient, that is, God knows everything.

However, this article also mentions how “wrongful acts” are sinful and are met with divine punishment. If you read anything about the ruling this past week overturning Roe v. Wade, a plethora of religious people see abortion as murder, and I’m assuming, believe that people who get abortions deserve to burn in Hell. So, should my assumption be correct, is the free will people have who decide to get abortions – a free will granted by God – incorrect? Is it inherently immoral? Or is it non-existent?

Maybe it’s not about all of the speculative questions, either. Perhaps it’s about learning a lesson? But what lesson is that in regards – specifically – to religious people? Because you know, as well as I do, that the answer to that question varies depending on who you ask, and what their relationship, understanding and interpretation of their religion means to them.

At the same time, however, in our very Constitution, it states – first and foremost, I might add – that: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Supreme Court’s ruling last week violates the initial tenets of our 1st Amendment. And if you don’t believe in that because the Court just set the right to seek abortions “back to the states,” the Court did, however, open the floodgates for governors with religious beliefs tied to abortion, to pass legislation outlawing abortion.

Back on June 8 of this year, Politico ran this piece highlighting gubernatorial candidate thoughts on their views on abortion rights in their states. On April 14 of this year The L.A. Times ran this piece about what “Pro-Life” Republicans believe in regards to that very sentiment – many of whom are religious, and believe abortion is wrong based on their religious beliefs. Some Republicans, according to the article, have doubts about their party, however.

The L.A. Times piece goes on to mention the link between Evangelical Christianity and the Republican party goes back at least 50 years, and many Christian websites revel in the way the ruling went last week.

There’s so much to unpack here, and I know that I alone cannot overturn every stone in relation to this ruling and what it means for the country going forward. But what I will say, is that I believe we’re headed in a very, very bad direction.

Justice Clarence Thomas already said in his concurring opinion “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is “demonstrably erroneous. we have a duty to “correct the error” established in those precedents.”

Griswold v. Connecticut helped legalize contraception on the basis of a right to privacy. Lawrence v. Texas removed sodomy laws, thus allowing same-sex relationships to be decriminalized. The Lawrence ruling in 2003 also “explicitly held that intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by the substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. In the Court’s opinion, they said “The right of same-sex couples to marry is also derived from the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. The Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause are connected in a profound way.” Justice Thomas dissented from the majority opinion.

In all of the cases I’ve listed, the 14th Amendment is tied to all of them. Justice Thomas thinks we should revisit past decisions that ruled people’s right to “life, liberty and property without due process” was violated? He really thinks those decisions were incorrect. Which brings me to my next point: If people who live in a “free society” are constantly at odds with what rights others do or don’t deserve, where’s the freedom? And freedom from what?

As I get older, it appears all the more likely that one of two things will happen in this country: We become so divided, we have another Civil War over what liberty is supposed to be, we fracture at the center of it all, and the United States ceases to exist forevermore, or, we willingly, as a people say “based on our differing political ideologies about how we believe the world and our society should work, let’s separate into two different countries.”

I can’t imagine which one of those scenarios is worse. People are actually talking about the U.S. dividing up. How would that even work? Do all democratic voters and conservative voters move to opposite sides of the country? Or do we spilt up into four different countries based on the time zones we’re in? If you have a job out-of-state that’s on the other end of the country in this scenario, do you lose your job? Y’know, because your job would be in a different country now?

I really don’t think this is mere speculation anymore. I think it’s a matter of “when”, not “if.” We’re so polarized in this country that I can understand the sentiment of saying “y’know what? Screw everyone. Everything sucks. Life is ridiculous here. Those in power don’t care about us, the people who vote for the other side are traitors to the country, we should just restart.”

Would that really be better? Or would it just be different? Because other countries around the world have their own myriad of political and social issues, too, they just don’t outwardly appear as divided about them as we are about our issues here in the United States. Though that’s mere speculation on my part, if true, I wonder if that has to do with the fact that hundreds-of-millions of people live together in the U.S. as opposed to the tens-of-millions that usually live throughout most European countries.

Perhaps there really are too many people that live in this country we call the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave that forgot freedom should pertain to everyone, not just yourself and that bravery is about protecting the right for all to have freedom, regardless of what you believe.

If you truly believe that people in the U.S. should have the freedom to do what they want in regards to their own person, you’d realize the right to have an abortion is empirical to what personal freedoms are all about.

Justice Thomas’ words concerning past rulings open up a slippery slope in regards to “legalized” freedoms in this country. Should the Court rule in favor of the previous decisions Thomas brings up as “immoral, or as a “mistake,” same-sex marriage is no longer a nationally protected right. Neither would seeking contraception nor certain sexual relationships – particularly gay and lesbian ones. But if Lawrence v. Texas is overturned, that would also affect trans relationships, too. If you think it won’t, you’re not seeing the bigger picture here.

You can think something is wrong, or amoral, but if it’s not literally interfering with your right to privacy, why are you upset? What is with the Republican wing of this country in their belief of sexual rights being granted to anyone as strictly incorrect?

You don’t ever see serious legislation arguing for a limit or a ban on condoms or Viagra, do you? You don’t see legislation looking to outlaw vasectomy, do you? If the Supreme Court believes abortion should be a states issue, are these same states that are against abortion also against condoms and vasectomy?

Why is it only – at least for the moment – about abortion and birth control pills? Are the justices ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade in favor of forced birth? Are they in favor of sex being performed with the sole intent of birthing a child? If any of them – or anyone for that matter – believe that sex is only about conception and child birth, are they also sadists?

Ask anyone those questions who’s Pro-Life and they’ll likely say “no, it’s just about the right of the unborn to be born.” Because they think life is innately spectacular and precious and must be experienced, right? Okay, I think life is pretty amazing, too, in a lot of ways. I can understand that.

But just because people can get pregnant and that they can have children, it does not mean you should get to dictate that decision for them. That’s what being Pro-Choice is about: respecting people’s right – oh, look! There’s that word again – to decide what they want.

Imagine this: You go to Carvel to get an ice cream sundae. Who doesn’t love an ice cream sundae? You’re with some friends, and after they order, you say you want a triple scoop sundae. You tell the person behind the counter what flavors you want. They then ask for toppings. You say you want rainbow colored sprinkles. But the worker associates sprinkles with LBGTQ+ wokeness and Trans rights that they don’t agree with, so they refuse to give you the topping you want.

You ask the person, why they aren’t giving you what you asked for, and they say, the topping you picked goes against their political beliefs, so they can’t give it to you. Do you believe that person has the right to tell you what you want?

Now expand this logic to states that are outlawing abortion. Why is the state deciding for its own citizens what they can and cannot have or want in relation to one’s own personal preference that only affects them?

It’s absolutely ridiculous. People who get abortions will face jail time or prison sentences for murder? Those seeking abortion out-of-state will be placed on no-fly lists or have their licenses revoked? If you think I’m being ridiculous, our country imprisoned hundreds-of-thousands of Japanese people in 1942 due to Japan’s involvement in World War II.

Per archives.gov, “From the end of March to August, approximately 112,000 persons were sent to “assembly centers” – often racetracks or fairgrounds – where they waited and were tagged to indicate the location of a long-term “relocation center” that would be their home for the rest of the war.” 70,000 of which, were American citizens. The article in reference goes on to state “There were no charges of disloyalty against any of these citizens, nor was there any vehicle by which they could appeal their loss of property and personal liberty.

Oh, look! The United States violated the 14th Amendment again!

Did you know that Texas passed a law last year that was “incentivizing civilians to sue with a $10,000 cash reward if successful and removing defendants’ ability to recoup their legal fees.” The Texas Tribune also notes “If survivors of rape become pregnant and seek an abortion, those procedures could become the object of lawsuits.”

The state cannot enforce this law, because it likely violates – you guessed it – the 14th Amendment! So citizens can enforce it instead.

Considering how many rights have been upheld per the 14th Amendment, and people like Clarence Thomas want to reassess those rights, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Supreme Court votes to take us back to the 14th Century.

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