Overturning of Roe v. Wade Is a Reminder That We Aren’t a True Democracy

When unpopular minority opinions overrule the will of the people, it's time to stop being polite.

A protest sign at the Philadelphia Roe v. Wade demonstrations / Photograph by Andriana Wilson

Last week’s landmark overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court should be a shock to no one.

Threats to end abortion rights have been around for decades — since long before conservatives held the majority in the highest court in the land, and years before Donald Trump became president. While it’s easy to point the finger at the current powers-that-be who are infringing on the reproductive rights of millions of Americans, society should take a look in the mirror — and take a look back.

For years, Democrats and moderate Republicans alike tolerated “pro-life” politicians within their ranks and treated the matter as a mere difference of opinion. In 2016, the first woman to be nominated for U.S. president by a major political party picked a male pro-lifer to be her running mate. The political party that argued in favor of pro-choice never codified Roe v. Wade into law when it had the chance. Even conservatives who supported the precedent wrongfully put their faith in Supreme Court nominees who had other plans. And let’s not forget that the Federalist Society has spent decades recommending regressive judges (such as Justice Amy Coney Barrett) who made it clear this was their agenda all along.

Now, not all Americans can say “my body, my choice” thanks to the bipartisan compromises of our elected officials.

We’re often told in America that the majority rules in a democracy — that popular opinions get the final say. So we’ve assumed that in a democracy, we can tolerate unpopular opinions because they won’t have the power to affect us. The goal of finding “common ground” with those who sought to strip away individual liberties should always have been framed as a cop-out from the braver response of actually fighting back. But so long as the majority of our population was in favor of abortion access, same-sex marriage, and other progressive rights, many of us treated threats from the minority as hollow. 

News flash: This country elected as president a man who lost the popular vote and gave him the power (with the help of an obstructionist Senator) to appoint the three Supreme Court justices who just overturned legal precedent that was favored by the majority. Unpopular opinions get undue power in this circus-mirror version of democracy. You can blame anti-democratic institutions, such as the Electoral College and a Senate that disproportionately favors small states, for adding to the turmoil.

In his concurring opinion to the Roe v. Wade reversal, Justice Clarence Thomas threatened to go after precedent on contraception, same-sex marriage, sodomy laws and more.

If there was ever a time to not let history repeat itself, it would be right now. 

To those who’ve cuddled up to those who would challenge the rights fought for by generations of activists and working-class citizens — it’s time to draw the line. The bad guys are winning, and it’s largely due to those within our circles who have normalized their behavior.

Stop being afraid of cancel culture and defend what’s right — lives are on the line.

Stop treating opinions that set us back as a society as civil discourse — there’s nothing “civil” about stripping away long-held rights.

Stop trying to rationalize the insanity of those who are steadfast in their pursuit to take us back to the Dark Ages — they’re not bluffing. Neither should we be.

In the upcoming elections, the majority of voters who are pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, and in favor of other civil liberties must challenge the establishment forces that would try to convince us to compromise. It’s time to call out the pro-lifers in the Democratic Party: They are not truly representing us.