On Sunday, conservative Christian pastors across America will celebrate the terror they’ve unleashed upon the nation.
With a 6-3 ruling by the Supreme Court this morning to overturn Roe v. Wade, leaving women’s bodily autonomy dependent on whether Republicans control their state legislatures, white evangelicals and conservative Catholics and their allies won a game they began playing decades ago when they decided abortion was a better rallying cry for their troops than straight-up racism.
This battle won’t stop here, either. If Republicans manage to control Congress and the White House in the future, you can bet that the first bill they pass will be a nationwide ban on the procedure after a few weeks, before most women even know they’re pregnant. As the dissenting justices said today, “The challenge for a woman will be to finance a trip not to ‘New York [or] California’ but to Toronto.”
Even Clarence Thomas, who interrupted his involvement with one coup to participate in another one this morning, urged the Court to use this decision to overturn “Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell“—that is, access to contraception, same-sex relationships, and marriage equality. Today’s ruling wasn’t the first domino to fall, but it’s a big one, and its ripple effects will be felt for years to come by anyone who cares about privacy, inclusion, tolerance, and love.
It’s the high point of a Christian nationalist agenda that aims to hurt as many people as possible outside the bubble.
White evangelicals traded their supposed principles in 2016 for the possibility of this moment. They gave up their claim to a moral high ground and got three Supreme Court justices in return. Instead of spreading the gospel of Jesus, they were more than willing to use their political power to terrorize everyone who didn’t share their “values.” So congratulations, I guess. They made a deal with the Devil, the Devil won, and preachers will be patting themselves on the back this weekend for their role in the process.
They don’t care that criminalizing abortion will only make the procedure less safe, not more rare. They don’t care that more women will die because they won’t have the resources to get to a blue state to obtain the medical help they need. They don’t care that some of the fetuses cannot survive on their own and that forcing women to give birth anyway will cause serious emotional and physical damage. They don’t care that today’s ruling will impact women of color and poor people far more than the sort of people who typically attend their lily-white megachurches.
It’s not like this decision will get in the way of their own families. Plenty of preachers’ daughters will find ways to obtain an abortion if they need one. They’ve always been able to do that in secret because the anti-abortion rhetoric spewed from the pulpit has always outweighed the reality of the situation, which many pastors refuse to acknowledge. A 2015 survey from the Southern Baptist-affiliated Lifeway Research found that 7 in 10 women who have had an abortion identify as Christian. Catholics (27%) and evangelicals (16%)—two groups that actively oppose abortion rights—made up a substantial portion of that 70%. A different survey from the Guttmacher Institute found that roughly 20% of all abortion patients identified as “born-again, evangelical, charismatic or fundamentalist.” They’re hypocrites, to put it bluntly. And those are just the patients willing to be honest about their religious label.
Hypocrisy has never been an obstacle for conservative Christians. There are undoubtedly countless pastors who preach against abortion from the pulpit on Sunday even though they’ve helped their own children secure a necessary abortion another day of the week. But rather than be honest about the toll a forced pregnancy would have in their own lives, they spread lies that elevate fetuses over women with the ease of pseudo-historian David Barton lying about the Founding Fathers.
There is nothing “pro-life” about today’s ruling. Women will die because right-wing Christians got what they wanted. The people celebrating the decision have no love for those who will ultimately be affected by it. They’re never going to push for progressive policies to address the root causes that lead to unwanted pregnancies in the first place. They’re not pushing for affordable comprehensive health care or universal pre-K or a higher minimum wage. Hell, they’re still on a high from yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to eliminate sensible gun restrictions. The people who support Weapons For All and the death penalty have no business pretending to be “pro-life.” That phrase has lost all meaning.
While we’re at it, so have all those claims that the U.S. is embracing a version of “Sharia law.” Why bother bringing in an extreme version of Islam into a discussion of what radical Christians have done to this country? This isn’t Sharia. This is Christian nationalism. We live under conservative Christian rule.
If we live in a “Christian nation” at all, it’s because our nation is currently threatened by the Christians in charge, not for any historical reason. Roe was overturned by five Catholics and one Protestant (Neil Gorsuch, who was raised Catholic). Our laws are in the hands of a conservative religious Supreme Court majority—and that’s before we look to Congress, which could tip to Republican control by the end of the year. Congress as a whole is nearly 90% Christian, and that number jumps to 99% when you look at the Republican Party alone.
Today’s decision, however, doesn’t mean advocates for abortion rights should just accept the ruling. It’s time to go on the offensive. While overturning Roe will undoubtedly be seen as a moral victory for the millions of conservative Protestants and Catholics who falsely think they just saved millions of lives, it will also require them to shift gears. The dog finally caught the car it’s been chasing this whole time; what comes next?
As I’ve said before, it’s always been easy to express concern about the unborn because doing so requires no actual responsibility. Religious conservatives constantly talk about protecting fetuses while mostly neglecting the people who suffer as a result of their broken theology. It’s not just a talking point to say anti-abortion activists stop caring about those fetuses the moment they exit the womb. The late comedian George Carlin was spot on when he summarized their position as, “If you’re pre-born, you’re fine. If you’re preschool, you’re fucked.”
Instead of merely opposing abortion, conservatives will now have to defend the idea of forcing women to give birth in cases of rape and incest. They have to explain why women should be forced to endure the horrors of an ectopic pregnancy. They have to explain how they plan to care for the babies that will be born in the worst circumstances imaginable. They’ll inevitably find new talking points, sure, but defending the possible repercussions of rape is a hell of a lot harder than pretending to care about fetuses. That strategy only works, though, if progressives (and liberal politicians) push those issues. As Eyal Press wrote in the New Yorker in 2017, “Republicans have been able to embrace anti-abortion absolutism while avoiding the political repercussions of putting this absolutism into practice.”
There are other short-term solutions to this crisis, too. If this decision doesn’t push sensible Americans to vote in overwhelming numbers for Democrats this November, nothing will. If Democrats retain a majority in the Senate and have the numbers to make Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema irrelevant, they can eliminate the filibuster and expand the Court. They can codify abortion rights into law. But all of that requires apathetic people to stop pretending politics don’t matter, get off their asses, and vote for the more progressive options on the ballot. It requires sensible religious people to get their family members and church colleagues to vote against Republican insanity. It requires Democrats to use this issue as a rallying cry for the midterms—and then take action when they have the opportunity instead of scheduling a pointless hearing some time in the future.
Unless that happens, a person’s uterus is now at least partially controlled by a group of high-ranking white evangelicals and their allies, most of whom are male, most of whom don’t give a damn about any part of the body that exists outside of it.
This is the future that conservative Christians wanted. Today, their wish came true. The nation is worse off because of it.