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The Demise of Roe v. Wade, Threats to Democracy, & Single Payer

June 25, 2022

Summary: Yesterday the Supreme Court reversed 50 years of abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade. This attack on reproductive rights and health is an integral part of a broader half-century undermining of our democratic system. The fights to save democracy and provide universal healthcare are linked.

Letters from an American, June 24, 2022
By Heather Cox Richardson

At yesterday’s hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, we heard overwhelming proof that former president Trump and his congressional supporters tried to overturn the will of the voters in the 2020 presidential election and steal control of our country to keep a minority in power.

Today, thanks to three justices nominated by Trump, the Supreme Court stripped a constitutional right from the American people, a right we have enjoyed for almost 50 years, a right that is considered a fundamental human right in most liberal democracies, and a right they indicated they would protect because it was settled law. Today’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. For the first time in our history, rather than conveying rights, the court has explicitly taken a constitutional right away from the American people.

These two extraordinary events are related. The current-day Republican Party has abandoned the idea of a democracy in which a majority of the people elect their government. Instead, its members have embraced minority rule.

The Dobbs decision marks the end of an era: the period in American history stretching from 1933 to 1981, the era in which the U.S. government worked to promote democracy. It tried to level the economic playing field between the rich and the poor by regulating business and working conditions. It provided a basic social safety net through programs like Social Security and Medicare … 

Now the Republicans are engaged in the process of dismantling that government. …

[The Dobbs decision argued] that the right to determine abortion rights must be returned “to the people’s elected representatives” at the state level, even as states are restricting the right to vote. …

We are still waiting on another potentially explosive decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, in which the court will decide if Congress can delegate authority to government agencies as it has done since the 1930s. If the court says Congress can’t delegate authority, even if it waters that argument down, government regulation could become virtually impossible.

Comment by: Jim Kahn

Make no mistake about it, yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe v. Wade, clearly an attack on reproductive health and women’s rights, is also integral to a broader attack on democracy. It is latest development in a decades-long concerted effort to deconstruct the federal assertion and protection of rights that started in earnest with FDR 90 years ago, and to exploit our biased electoral system to empower a minority to implement that agenda. The latest twist, we are reminded in the January 6 Congressional hearings, is that the GOP is willing to use big lies and subversion of basic democratic processes to complete their slow coup. Heather Cox Richardson, as usual, sees all the connections. I encourage you to read her full post.

Single payer is profoundly pro-democratic, as I’ve repeatedly written in HJM. It is universal, equitable, economically leveling, and guided by representatives of the people not of corporate shareholders. Thus, the fight for universal healthcare and for real democracy have linked core values. I believe that mending our health care financing will help mend our fractured democracy. But are these two goals linked strategically? Does the fight for single payer bolster efforts to preserve democracy? Does preserving democracy tactically advance the single payer cause? My intuition says yes, but I don’t yet understand the integrated battle plan. I’ll revert on that.

I’ll close with a reminder that this is not just about governance and human rights, it’s also about life and death. Ample research demonstrates that restricting access to abortion raises maternal and even infant mortality. The new decision and subsequent state actions to restrict or ban abortion will cause many hundreds of added deaths per year. The evidence can be seen here, here, here, here, and here.


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