Let Roe go?

Wonky theory overlooks one thing: Real people.

Published November 9, 2005 9:34PM (EST)

Seems it's become fashionably contrarian, very let's tip that sacred cow, to declare that the overturning of Roe would actually be good for the ladies. Hey, thanks!

Writing in yesterday's Huffington Post, Zachary Karabell asks, "What if the Democrats simply decided to walk away from this particular battle, a tactical retreat that no Republican in their right mind (pun intended) expects? What if, yes, the Democrats decided that to let those proverbial chips fall where they may, and allow for the possibility that the Supreme Court just might overturn Roe and declare that there is no constitutional right to abortion."

What if? "The Democrats," Karabell writes, "would be far better off." I'm sorry, I misspoke earlier. The Democrats would be better off. Not the ladies.

Karabell's argument, one already articulated (so to speak) by David Brooks, is this: "Post Roe, nothing would change in the Blue states. But in many Red states, abortion is already de facto restricted. Try finding an abortion clinic in rural Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia. Abortion is already socially illegal in many parts of the country; mores often matter more than laws. But if Roe is overturned, suddenly, every state would be forced to discuss and debate, and that would propel the Democrats from defense to offense. Imagine: in Red states where Democrats have been portraying themselves as kinder, gentler Republicans, there would suddenly be an opportunity to debate choice, privacy, state power versus individual freedoms, morality, life, death, and science. Would they win everywhere? Hardly. But they would be central and relevant about issues that engender passion and heated disagreements."

Oh, goody! Heated disagreements! An opportunity to debate! I'm sure the women who have to lie, take food out of their kids' mouths, and risk their safety to drive three days to Massachusetts would love to join in.

Look, I'm sure Karabell's heart is in the right place. But his brain is getting in the way. Did you notice, as Feministing did, that the word "woman" does not appear anywhere in his article? This argument is nothing more than a wonky what-if game-theory exercise that elevates "strategy" over actual human suffering. It's a conversation for a dinner party, not a real-life war room.

And when the Roe debate is reduced -- by both sides -- to a yes-no question, what gets overlooked is the fact that for millions of women in many [red and purple] states, Roe is already meaningless. (To his credit, Karabell alludes to them -- but only as inevitable casualties of his master plan.) Focus on the threats not to Roe itself but to women's rights and access to abortion, right now: That would be good for the Democrats. Oh, and for women.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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