Overturning Roe and the modern family

illustration / pnc

I wrote for the New Republic: “Overturning Roe Is an Attack on the Modern Family“:

The American right’s obsessive focus on abortion is many things: misleading—it’s not about protecting the lives of innocent potential humans but about denying the essential humanity of women—shameless, and cruel, for starters. One thing it is not is random. Conservatives get one thing right: Abortion rights are a fundamental, clash-of-civilization-level battle. What is at stake, in the overturning of Roe v. Wade, is a woman’s autonomy over her own body, yes, but with it the foundation of modern family life.

The Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 didn’t feel like an ephemeral political victory. It felt like society turning a corner. Like voting rights, abortion rights are a cornerstone on which the structure of modern democracy rests. And once implemented, they have thus far generally become permanent: This century, only Nicaragua, Poland, and the United States—all societies where anti-democratic regimes rule with minority support—have rolled back abortion rights. Roe v. Wade lasted 50 years, albeit in a progressively weakening state.

Abortion rights are foundational because control over the size and timing of family growth is a prerequisite of the modern condition. Demographers have documented what some call the “demographic transition,” which spread around the world with industrialization, bringing lower death rates, especially for children, which led to lower birth rates a generation or two later. Birth rates fell because people didn’t need or want as many children now that kids were more likely to survive. They fell because children were becoming more costly (and valuable) to educate. And they fell because people gained access to better means of contraception.

Read the rest at the New Republic.

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