Goodbye Roe v. Wade. Hello, minority rule, writes Robert Gehrke

The road back from Dobbs will be long and steep, but too many women sacrificed too much for control of their own bodies to stop now.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lilian Agar holds a sign after attending a rally in defense of abortion rights after at the Capitol, Friday, June 24, 2022. Utah enacted a ban on elective abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade on Friday.

Even though we had all expected the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade since a draft of the opinion leaked in May, Friday was surprisingly hard.

And while I wish I had some profound insight or inspirational pep talk, I do not. I’m disgusted by the ruling and despondent about what lies ahead.

I wish that my daughter didn’t have to live in a state where she will have fewer rights, less bodily autonomy and less personal freedom than my mother did when she was pregnant with me, but it would appear that is now her future.

I wish I could say this is a temporary situation and that it will change, either at the state or federal level, but I don’t see that happening, perhaps in my lifetime.

That’s because we live in a country where the minority now rules.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

Nationally, polls by the Pew Research Center show a clear majority — 61% in the most recent survey — believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases. A Quinnipiac University poll this month found the same level of support for Roe.

But that doesn’t matter. Now the party that has only won the presidential popular vote once in 36 years has managed to stack the Supreme Court with young, strident conservatives who will likely shape the direction of the court for decades.

Congress, likewise, is incapable of addressing the issue because a minority in the Senate can block practically anything that they want.

So we’re left to the whims of the Utah Legislature, which has made itself impervious to the will of the people and immune to electoral accountability.

The most thorough poll I’ve seen on the topic of abortion in Utah was the 2019 survey conducted by Y2 Analytics that found that 58% of Utahns at the time opposed overturning Roe v. Wade and a significant portion of those wanted restrictions on abortion eased, not tightened.

Republicans like U.S. Senate candidate Becky Edwards, who dared to suggest Roe shouldn’t be revisited, are branded as RINOs and beaten down at convention or in a primary — the only election that matters, thanks to the Legislature’s intense gerrymandering.

I wish I could say we have the tools to make this ruling less devastating. We can offer better sex education, access to contraception, availability of Plan B, resources for adoption, and support for mothers and their children after birth and it will never eliminate circumstances where abortions become necessary.

That means in Utah, there will be women — those who have the resources — who travel out of state for the procedure and there will be those who cannot.

There will be those who don’t report a rape and are forced by the state to carry their attacker’s fetus to term. There will be instances where pregnancies are forced to continue despite a severe fetal defect that is not quite “uniformly lethal” — as required by Utah law — only to have the child die after birth.

History has also shown us there will be those instances where women will find a way to end a pregnancy, even if it means risking their own lives.

And whose lives and whose rights are next? It’s clear that when these justices said they would give due deference to judicial precedent, they lied. The court is now an overtly political body (if it wasn’t all along) and nothing is off the table.

Justice Clarence Thomas flatly stated as much in his concurrence when he said that the court should reconsider its precedents in other cases built on the same rationale as Roe — including the right to contraception, the right to same-sex relationships and the right to same-sex marriage.

In the dissenting opinion, the minority justices warned that “no one should be confident that this majority is done with its work.”

If their work isn’t done, then neither is ours. Too many generations of women struggled for too long for basic control of their own bodies to give up this right without fighting like hell.