Choice, the Court and Citizenship

Two points I would amidst the cacophony of plaints and desperate screams that welcomed the “leak” of a Supreme Court decision draft of one of the Court’s most reactionary members: Samuel Alito.

Nobody knows who leaked the draft and, in the end, nobody should care. This idea that the most important issue for the Court is its secrecy is just plain nonsense. If you believe in the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, which I never have, you have to realize that the Court’s most important challenge is that nobody is taking it seriously as the impartial authority on law it’s supposed to be. It’s a political trick. Nothing more.

But it does, heaven help us, affect our lives because it makes decisions that give us citizenship rights, as in Roe vs. Wade and take them away, as it will if Alito’s draft become its opinion.

So I’ll humbly add two things to the debate.

While it is about women’s rights and people’s rights and all the other critically important aspects of this “debate”, the struggle for reproductive rights is fundamentally a citizenship issue.

Essentially, the idea behind U.S. law is that we can whatever we want unless it does harm to another human being. Laws that prohibit activity by each us have to meet that standard: you have to harm another person. Traditionally the law defines “persons” as humans who function on their own for the most part. I say that because people who are unable to cope with all aspects of this complex society are people because they can do the basics: their bodies function organically and independently.

So, no matter what religion tells us, a fetus is not a person. The people who argue that it is probably believe that humans have a soul and, while we respect their beliefs, those beliefs are not and can never be the law of this country.

The right to do what you want privately, in your own life, is never trampled on by any law for any reason except criminal behavior on your part. Mind you, they try and stop you from doing lots of things but that’s because those things mess with other people’s rights. If it affects you only, hands off.

Except if you’re a woman who is pregnant. Under the Alito premises, and the thinking of repugnant idiots running more than half our states, the moment a woman gets pregnant she loses her fundamental rights and her citizenship.

Think about the wider implications of that or, for that matter, its immediate implications. They take away someone’s citizenship because she engages in sex with someone and gets pregnant. There is nothing illegal about any of that! So how in the world can you take away someone’s rights?

Want me to go on? If you take away that fundamental right of women, they end up without rights; you can’t pick and choose what rights you recognize. That’s taking away someone’s rights. Once you do that with women, you can do that with anybody. The precedent set here is frightening but, given the current political situation, it’s a major step toward fascist control of the country.

Hence my second point. What is wrong with this Congress? That’s rhetorical of course. We all know what’s wrong with it: its functioning in a capitalist society has never been real democracy and, right now, it isn’t even functioning that way. That does not mean that we should ignore, however.

For its entire history, Congress has played a critical role: it makes into law the demands and concerns of the mass movement of opposition in the streets. Every single major accomplishment by Congress starts with massive, disruptive demonstrations and demands.

That’s history. You can check it. So that’s what needs to happen now. Counting on the Supreme Court, which has lots its credibility for everyone who thinks (including Justice Sotomayor), is folly. The Congress has to do this and the only way it’s going to is for us to join movement that is already re-mobilizing — the one that won us these rights in the first place so many decades ago.

In the U.S., we add to our list of top movement priorities the codification of a woman’s right to full citizenship without subject to suspension: the right of choice. I would put it right up there with climate change because, while one is about our ability to survive, the other is about our ability to determine what that survival means.

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