Prisoners to their own bodies

Moira Donegan doesn’t mince words.

The draft opinion, authored by Samuel Alito, the most rabidly hateful member of the court’s arch-conservative wing, will upend 50 years of precedent and undo a landmark ruling that has profoundly shaped legal doctrine, popular conceptions of the law, and millions of American lives. It will make women prisoners to their own bodies, and to men’s ideas of what those bodies must mean. It will make our country weaker, crueler, stupider and less vibrant.

We’re all prisoners to of in our own bodies, of course, but unwanted pregnancy is a particularly intrusive and disruptive demonstration of that imprisonment.

In a way, the leaked opinion didn’t tell us anything we did not already know: these are the last days of reproductive freedom in America, and most states will soon ban abortion outright, or restrict it so onerously that it is inaccessible within their borders. But Alito’s draft opinion nevertheless represents about as odiously maximalist an approach as the court could have taken.

The opinion does not just overturn Roe and Casey; it expresses outright contempt for the notion that the constitution protects bodily autonomy for women.

Because after all what are women for if they’re not baby factories? What is even the point of them?

The end of legal abortion will not be where the court’s reactionaries stop. They aim to hurt, punish and narrow the lives of Americans in many more cruel and inventive ways.

The state compelling a person to be pregnant is not like compelling her to pay taxes. The event doesn’t occur in a courtroom or on a balance sheet; it occurs inside her body.

It is, perhaps, somewhat like the draft. Draft laws are also controversial, for obvious reasons.

In making abortion illegal, the court is imposing a legal status that is so cruel, so personal and so life-altering on half its population, that those subject to this imposition cannot be called free. Is there any condition more essential to democratic citizenship than a person’s control over her own body? Can we call ourselves a free country without it?

Could 1950s Ireland call itself a free country? (Spoiler: no.)

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