America Post-Roe: A Conversation With Historian Linda Hirschman

by | Jun 28, 2022 | News, Reproductive Rights

Since Friday, Americans are still reeling from the new reality of half of the population living without a right to an abortion in light of the Supreme Court of the United States overturning Roe v. Wade.

Hundreds of abortion clinics are closing state by state, leaving many Americans feeling the anxiety Texans have felt since September with the state’s six-week abortion ban. 

Despite the majority of Americans supporting some form of access to abortion, SCOTUS sending the right back to the states has already triggered 13 states’ all-out abortion ban. 

Under Texas’ trigger law, abortion would be considered a felony, and abortion providers could face a $100,000 fine and up to life in prison if they provide care. 

Despite Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton instructing abortion clinics to close down immediately following the ruling,  it could take up to 25 days or more for the court to issue a judgment. 

On Tuesday, a Harris County Court blocked the pre-Roe abortion ban after a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union and Texas abortion providers filed against the state challenging the ban.

While abortions up to six weeks are available at some clinics, accessibility afterward will become slim to none with abortion funds, advocacy groups, and organizations helping pregnant people find healthcare. 

Nevertheless, Republican lawmakers’ fixation on people’s bodily autonomy, right-wing media’s love fest of the Great Replacement Theory, and the dispelling of the separation of church and state all seem to point to the conservative movements’ bigger goal of white power. 

The Signal spoke to author and culture historian Linda Hirshman on the overruling of Roe, Republicans’ fundamentalism policy making, and federal access to abortions. 

The questions and answers in this story have been edited for clarity. 

As a historian, can you talk about how long the Republican party has planned this ruling? 

“The Republican party has been planning this since the 1970s when Phyllis Schlafly organized the three fundamentalist religions to get together. Since they took the right to an abortion out of their platform in 1980, that would be 42 years. And unlike the Democrats who would rather talk about anything except women, abortion, and the court, they [Republicans] focused like a laser beam on women, abortion, and the court. They used the moment of their ill-gotten power — they haven’t won the majority of the popular vote since 1988 — to pack the court with these right-wing misogynistic justices. And it was a clear campaign that reaches deep into the law schools. They understood if you could own the court, you actually didn’t need anything else. I want to see Joe Biden say to the court, ‘the chief justice has made his decision. Now let [me] enforce it.”

What would Joe Biden have to do to go through that route? 

“Well, what’s going to happen now is that the states are going to revise their pre-Roe anti-abortion laws, and there will be no abortion clinics. They will start shutting down abortion clinics. So one thing that Biden could do is send abortion services to the post offices, Indian reservations, and the national parks. And technically, the Supreme Court didn’t say anything about that. The Constitution couldn’t forbid the state from making abortion criminal, so it leaves it up to the various Democratically elected branches of government.”

In terms of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the Trump administration tried to distract the public away from her involvement in these religious organizations. How do you see that context in terms of the religious majority that the court holds now? 

“I think that Revelation-based religion plays a large role in the authoritarian morgue into the American democracy. If you scratch away the tiniest amount of surface from these people, you see that they are driven by irrationality. You can’t argue with someone who talks to God. And the deal was when the British started this experiment in the 17th century, ‘we would rather eat than hate.’ Essentially, we are going to stop trying to impose our religious beliefs on other citizens of our common enterprise. And when America was founded, we offered the same deal, at least to white people. But fundamentalist religions like Orthodox Judaism, Fundamentalist Protestantism, and Catholicism have been fighting against that since the early 70s, and a part of it is racism. The fundamentalist religion started these Christian academies so that their white kids would not have to go to school with Black kids after Brown v. Board of Education. So in some sense, the white racism of Americans’ fundamentalist religion drove them into politics. Once they were in politics, they were going to enforce the ghastly patriarchal agenda of these Old, New Testaments religions. Once you bring the Christians and the Jews into the government in terms of their beliefs, then the next thing you know, they are going to tell you what to do with your sex life.” 

They said they were targeting cases like Obergefell v. Hodges next. What timeline do you see? 

“Well, see how they do in the midterms. If they take control of the House, then the core wing of the Republican Party will start pressing [SCOTUS] them to pass a national abortion ban. At the same time, the anti-abortion litigation forces are going to look for a case to bring to the Supreme Court, arguing that a fetus is a person for the purpose of the 5th and 14th Amendments. That will be next.” 

You can always leave the state and get the necessary care if you have the money. And studies show that this will impact communities of color the most. More specifically, in Texas, Black women have the highest maternal mortality in the state. 

“You know, it’s very interesting because a piece of this is the gleeful beating on poor Black women who always get the short end of the stick in any retrograde American social movement. Or anything that’s even just like a fact of nature like a pandemic. I am not sure what is going to happen because these people want to control their white wives. And they want to get more white babies. There is a big racist piece of this. So if you’re a racist and you’re following the Great Replacement Theory, what you want from overturning Roe v. Wade is that your women will stop refusing to get married, stop getting jobs of their own, and not do as much housework, and the birth rate has gone down. If you’re a white supremacist’s Great Replacement theory person, then you want white women having babies, and you also want to be able to boss them around. If they catch a white woman trying to get an abortion, they are going to force her into childbirth. Then I’m thinking we’re going to see a movement from those pregnancy centers to adopt those babies into other white families.” 

If you or anyone you know needs an abortion, visit needabortion.org or ineedna.com.

Photo: © Texas Signal Media Company

kennedy@texassignal.com | + posts

Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.

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