For much longer than 50 years, individuals who should be free have been made to endure the cruelty of courts. On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that for now, bodily autonomy is not a protected freedom, instead giving states greater authority to deny life-saving healthcare and regulate reproduction. That we knew it was coming did not soften the blow to our humanity—not when the effect is so sweeping and will harm so many. We are faced with an urgent call to action. We can and must read the Dobbs ruling as symptomatic of an accelerated push toward authoritarian rule, moving the U.S. even closer into the company of other backsliding nominal democracies.
The overturning of Roe and Casey by the instruments of the Federalist Society is yet more evidence that Christian nationalism is an existential threat. Righteous pursuers of a more perfect justice will ultimately remake our laws and institutions, but in the meanwhile pregnant people and their healthcare providers will needlessly suffer the consequences of a decades-long, unchecked campaign to build the political power of the antidemocratic religious and political Right.
By the end of this summer, more than half of the states will recklessly curtail access to abortion. The unraveling has been efficient. Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah began enforcing bans on abortion within hours of the Court’s announcement. More states have forbidden abortion than child marriage. Even before Roe, groups like Americans United for Life were established to provide the legal and legislative blueprint to eliminate reproductive choice. More than 400 model bills later, they are claiming victory. Only 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect the right to abortion.
To our partners in the struggle for reproductive justice, we will fight to see this decision reversed in our lifetime, and we will each have a role to play in the dawning of that day.
First, we must make clear to those who need to terminate a pregnancy now or in the future—abortions are possible. Established networks of doctors, nurses, and supporters are trained to deliver health care, medication, and immediate aid for costs, travel, and other logistics. Abortion funds can only become more unyielding in the face of higher barriers and growing need, so we must continue to answer their calls to volunteer and provide direct contributions.
Deepen your knowledge about and investment in the compassionate ecosystems of access and care created through Black- and Brown-led abortion funds; start with a visit to National Network of Abortion Funds. By reinforcing and resourcing our community-based networks, we are growing our resistance movements to withstand this set of attacks and the next.
Effectively organizing against the opposition requires constant education on what animates their efforts. The anti-abortion movement is the best organized faction of the Right, and one of the most durable pillars of the culture war designed to be fought over state-by-state. However, their leading institutions like Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation are not solely focused on restricting abortion. They are also fully committed to advancing anti-trans panic, undermining public health and environmental protections, promoting anti-Black and anti-immigrant positions, and controlling elections. By quashing the relevance of the Fourteenth Amendment and the principle of privacy, the Dobbs decision reflects the Court’s willingness to dismantle other rights, including contraception and sex without fear of criminalization. The Right’s synchronized assault on reproductive rights, gender-affirming care, and LGBTQ+ equality shows no signs of abating because it is operative in mobilizing their base.
The Christian Right is building cultural and political power for conservative Christians and oppressive gender traditionalism. Christian nationalists demand even more: to “restore” the United States as a so-called godly nation by and for a narrow subset of Christians. They will be enabled by Dominionists and theocrats of a number of varieties, who intend to dominate all aspects of economic, social, cultural, and political life. Paramilitary groups like the Proud Boys and violent anti-abortion misogynists will continue their harassment, intimidation, and outright vigilantism, only now more abetted by the state than ever. While their end goal differs from that of some White nationalists or the broader economic right, these movements are united in their commitment to repression and authoritarianism.
The forces best recognized for driving authoritarianism are racial and ethnic nationalism, theocratic and religious nationalism, and profound economic inequality. We should all be disturbed by how little has shifted after January 6. In 2021, most countries in the world were autocracies. Observing this feeble balance of power in the United States, we see how fluid the spectrum of politics is: from true democracy and its potential for unlimited pluralism, to concentrated power under authoritarianism, to the wholesale elimination of rival institutions and political actors within totalitarianism. Will it take masses of people conspicuously dying from preventable pregnancy complications to bring home the very real, existential implications of our current democratic decline, in a way that the slow, wrenching demise from poverty, bigotry, and carceral violence has more easily been ignored? Demographic change, economic inequality, the damaging effects of climate change, and backlash to changing cultural norms, especially gender, have all been accelerants of authoritarian movements. The tinder box of the U.S. has been primed to ignite.
Let us seize this moment of collective outrage and be torchbearers for a different future. More than ever, public opinion and scientific advances support bodily autonomy. We can apply unified pressure to reject surveillance in all its forms. We can defend immigrants, refugees, and incarcerated people, who are already among the most vulnerable to the threat of state-sanctioned violence and oppression. We can assemble the pro-choice religious majority. We can refuse to allow disability to be used as a wedge. We can oppose misogyny and anti-Blackness. We can cease to tolerate intimate partner violence and the criminalization of sex workers. We can address abortion as an economic and labor issue. We can hold our elected officials accountable and defeat those who stand in our way. We can practice and deepen solidarity. As Reproductive Justice leaders have long emphasized, Roe was the floor. Beyond our opposition, there is nothing in the way of rebuilding and reimagining our options.