Dare Doctrine, Redux

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Written by:  Jessica Silbey

Back in 2006, the first time I (eh hem) tried my hand at blogging, I was all afire about various states’ legislatures passing laws to restrict access to abortion services. At the time, South Dakota had just passed a law making it a crime to perform an abortion for any purpose except to save the life of the mother, clearly a violation of Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. I called it the “Dare Doctrine,” as in “we South Dakota legislators disagree with you Supreme Court of the United States and are calling you into a game of chicken. We know you have explicitly held otherwise, but we are right and Roe and Casey were wrong. We dare you to make us take it back.”

The idea took root and a local reporter picked it up for a story (showing the power of blogging!).  Now, as I begin a new stint at blogging this month at the SALTLAW blog, we are confronted with even more legislation newly passed all over the country similarly calling into question the Supreme Court’s precedent in Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood that protects a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy previability without undue interference from the state. The New York Times is calling this legislative push “Abortion’s New Battle Lines,” pointing to the newly passed laws in Nebraska, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Florida.

I am saddened by these laws. Should they be upheld — should the Supreme Court or the national legislature condone the regressivity of these laws — we cannot say that we live in a nation where women’s bodies and women’s choices over their bodies garner the kind of respect one would expect of a country who presumes to lead the world in so many indicators of progress and justice.

We can all say with honesty that we value the lives of children and the promise of our unborn children.  But until we put women’s justice front and center — in terms of health, jobs, education, e.g., full citizenship — the lives of those children will always suffer. Unfortunately, we need much more than meaningful freedom over our reproductive lives. But that is a start.