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Life After Roe Would Not Be Simple

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Looks like the forces waging the war over Roe are digging the trenches for another (final?) battle. South Dakota is on the verge of all but banning abortion, a move that will almost certainly spawn a case that is appealed to the Supreme Court. To people like South Dakota State Representative Roger Hunt, this move is good and proper. But pro-choice groups are less than thrilled. Planned Parenthood has already started a fund to fight the law.

I am far from unconvinced this move will work for South Dakota. But let’s pretend for a moment that years of Republican machinations and court appointments finally do pay off and Roe is overturned. What then? A rash of states would follow in South Dakota’s footsteps. Others would rush to affirm the right to choose. And America would become a nation of quilted abortion rights where the well-located and well-off would still have access to the procedure but where the poorly located and poor-of-means would not.

The landscape in post-Roe America would be complex. Politicians who for years have railed against abortion would be forced to actually stand up and act. But those actions will have many unintended consequences. Will the welfare ranks swell in pro-life states as more and more babies are born to poor mothers? Will the prisons hold young mothers who broke the law by seeking back-alley abortions? Will these states respond with initiatives to reduce unwanted pregnancies and help mothers who have not the means to help themselves?

The strong, unyielding rhetoric of pro-life politicians may sound like leadership now, but how will it sound when the real consequences of an abortion ban are made clear? Will they have the fortitude to compassionately handle the swell of unwanted children?

This is not and has never been a black-and-white issue. For my part, I abhor abortion. But I am not at all focused on banning it. Instead, I focus my energies on considering means to reduce abortions. How do we 1) reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and 2) provide the societal incentives and community support necessary to convince mothers to carry their babies to term.

Roe has a divisive hold on the American mind. But freeing ourselves from its grip does not require overturning the case. Instead we must change our focus on this issue. We must stop treating abortion as if it were either a God-given right or the most-brutal of evils. It isn’t so simple. And the solutions will not come in a court room.