Abortion rights no longer exist in the United States. That’s what the Supreme Court wants. With their understanding of the constitution, the judges judge past the majority and could also handle the achievements of entire centuries. A grim prognosis.
November 23, 2028, a Thursday, is a clear but far too cold day for this time of year in Washington DC. The temperatures are just above freezing and fit perfectly with the mood in the capital, where 250 years of history come to an end on this day. The city of Washington was actually supposed to be declared states 51, 52 and 53 along with Puerto Rico and the Pacific States. But instead of growing, the United States is collapsing.
California splits off, Texas also wants to leave
California had already declared itself a week and a half earlier because it did not want to recognize the result of the previous presidential election. This is another reason why Oregon is considering uniting with California. The states of Alaska, Michigan and Maine are asking the government in Ottawa to be admitted to Canada. This Thursday, New York with its 20 million inhabitants is also splitting off. In the south, Texas is negotiating with Oklahoma and Louisiana about a merger and subsequent exit from the United States. The federal government is still too liberal for them, and they too had only accepted the election results four years earlier with great pain.
The once economically and culturally most powerful country in the world is imploding. After all, the violence of the past few years has subsided.
It was the Supreme Court of all people that dealt the deathblow to the shattered country. More specifically, it was multiple fatalities. Allowing inflammatory speeches in 1969 was one. Or when presidential election recounts were declared partially unconstitutional in 2000. 2022: Basic right to carry firearms in public. 2022: No fundamental right to abortion. 2024: Constituency moves are legal, even if they reduce a party’s chances of winning. 2024: States may recognize or reject elections on their own. 2026: Contraception is unconstitutional. 2028: Postal voting can be banned.
Constitutional Court judgments with explosive force
Every single one of these decisions may have been justified in its time and under the respective (legal) circumstances. Collectively, however, they undermined the tenuously held together polity of the United States. Not only because judgments such as those on gun rights or abortions were minority opinions that had no support from the population. The mostly conservative to right-wing Supreme Court had also significantly strengthened the role of the states, with the result that whether citizens are granted basic rights or not simply depends on where they live. If a woman in Alabama wants an abortion, she’s out of luck. If a head of government in Vermont does not like an election result, the blessing is denied.
This scenario is of course (largely) made up, but the previous and possible future judgments of the US constitutional authorities have enormous explosive force. We now leave the fictional scenario and look at the current issues and how the Supreme Court is in the process of moving the USA back to 18th century law. Take gun laws, for example: With their conservative majority, the top judges have now once again liberalized gun laws – of all things at a time when the notoriously divided politicians were able to agree on a slight tightening for the first time in many years. Critics now fear that the Supreme Court decision will lead to significantly more people applying for a permit to carry guns in public and that similar regulations in other states will be overturned.
Most Americans don’t have guns
The majority of Americans are not at all the big gun freaks they are considered to be. Around two-thirds of the population do not own a gun or pistol, almost half want the laws to be tightened, and almost 60 percent of people are concerned that they or someone close to them could be involved in a shooting. Even if the exact numbers in such surveys vary, the trend has been clear for decades: Tolerance towards guns is steadily declining. But that also means that the ideas of the gun enthusiasts are constitutional, but not supported by the majority.
The situation is similar when it comes to abortion, on which the Supreme Court has now also made a landmark decision. In it, the judges overturn the previous precedent and thus also the fundamental right to abortions. In the future, the individual states will be able to decide for themselves whether abortions will remain legal and, if so, under what circumstances. Extremely harsh regulations, such as those already in place in Texas or Oklahoma, remain in place. Women who want to have an abortion are therefore forced to go to other states or to entrust themselves to illegally working doctors.
On this topic, Americans are even more unanimous than on weapons. At least across party lines. More than 80 percent of Americans support a basic right to an abortion, around a third even under all circumstances. Conservative voters, however, are much more skeptical: among Republican supporters, just a quarter unreservedly support abortions. Still, the Supreme Court’s most recent verdict will presumably only garner the applause of a rather small part of the country.
Constitution as defined by the founding fathers
The country’s top judge probably doesn’t care about the people’s applause, because it’s their job to interpret and uphold the constitution. It is no coincidence that they adopt almost reactionary positions. It was above all ex-President Donald Trump who filled three vacancies and only brought arch-conservative lawyers to the Supreme Court. Some of the constitutional judges count themselves among the so-called “originalists”. This school of law interprets the constitution as it was intended or even possible at the time it was written. Put simply, guns both existed and were desired at the end of the 18th century, so this is still true now, 250 years later.
Although abortion existed at the time (in dark back rooms), it was never mentioned by the founding fathers and probably even less desired. So there is no documented right to it – no matter what has happened in the past centuries. What this procedure means for future judgments can be calculated on one hand. Contraception and artificial insemination are also unlikely to get the blessing of the Supreme Court judges. Backward-looking decisions could also be made on complicated issues such as voting rights, such as the right to vote by post. When push comes to shove, the judges, elected for life, may wind up the achievements of centuries. This court has what it takes to cut the last ropes that hold US society together.