No good will come of overturning Roe v Wade

The Republican Party, the right-wingers and those deeply entrenched in a specific way of thinking are jubilant — and my Roman Catholic Church officially lauds the decision: “The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world.”

I am holding my breath — and no, I am not convinced that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position. Polls tell the opposite.

Obviously, the world would be a better place without abortion — but also without unwanted pregnancies and with programmes supporting single mothers and difficult social situations. We all know that this is not happening; that there is a lot of lip service. 

Secondly, this is not a decision born out of democracy: It is an almost fascist takeover of a democratic institution essential for justice served in a democratic society. Since Donald Trump, the US has lost many facets of a functioning democratic system. Radical white evangelical fundamentalists have taken over the reins at the supreme court and are forcing their ill convictions onto society. 

Three candidates for the supreme court all nominated by Trump — Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett — bent the truth under questioning in their confirmation hearings and one could also say there were lies and deceit in the run-up to confirmation.

 We also heard about sexual harassment and more by one of the now elected judges — and we know that Republican Senator Mitch McConnell earlier abused the system to avoid the nomination of a Barack Obama-proposed candidate. Politics instead of justice as a matter of fact.

No, the end never justifies the means — and the hijacking of the American democratic experiment by white macho evangelical and Catholic hardliners is one of the greatest dangers to democratic life in the US; it is a great danger to long-fought-for liberties and civil rights. 

Fake news, lies and outright criminal activities against the laws of democracy as the hearings into the storming of the Capitol in Washington on January 6 2021 bring to light cannot be the basis of a juridical decision of the highest court of the land.

I can’t and I will not celebrate an attack on the values of democracy. I am appalled to know that the reality is that poor women will bear the brunt and consequences of this decision —there will be illegal and dangerous options with deadly consequences. The writing is on the wall that — see Samuel A Alito and Clarence Thomas’s opinions — other basic rights will be on the chopping block in the future. 

Abortion is a much-debated issue in civil societies — and obviously the sanctity of life is at stake. But so is the sanctity of life attacked by the death penalty, by wars and certainly by current gun laws. The obvious schizophrenia of evangelical fundamentalists to pick what is convenient and to ignore or even promote the opposite of the rest is breathtaking. 

Once again: The end never justifies the means —celebrating the supreme court’s decision is ill-advised. It brings more chaos and more division to society, and more danger towards the democratic institutions in the US. It will also cost lives. Obviously, religious institutions and faith-based groups can and should have an opinion and also participate in the public debate. But there are rules and ethics when it comes to how decisions in a democratic system are made.

If we are honest, we all have to admit: abortion will not disappear by a court decision, but by an openness of society to discuss sexuality, by means of avoiding pregnancy and by politics supporting children, single parents and families. All things religious fundamentalists and evangelical hardliners, but also organised religion, are not known for putting into practice. 

Convincing people in a democracy to do the right thing (whatever that is …) is always a process of words and deeds, but also carries the freedom of those we try to convince to say “no”. We people of faith are part of this process, but in my humble view we can never support decisions which are based on lies, deceit, political gambling and hardly covered intentions born out of private religious fundamentalist convictions. 

The decision in the matter of Roe v Wade is at the end a disservice to the aim to avoid unwanted pregnancies and to acknowledge realities; it will polarise and militarise those in favour or against it, and it brings in disrepute the standing of one of the most important institutions in a democracy. And the victims in all this are at the end again: women.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.

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Stefan Hippler
The Reverend Father Stefan Hippler is executive chair of the board of trustees of the Hope Cape Town Trust and priest in residence. He writes in his personal capacity

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