The imminent end of Roe v. Wade
Plus Japan's Prime Minister steps down
Politics at home: The end of Roe v. Wade
I was going to write about the attempted recall of Governor Newsom in California (short version: he’ll probably be fine), but the Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe in the dead of night so I decided to channel my rage into writing this instead.
The Supreme Court did not formally overturn Roe, which is why the New York Times home page headline is simply “Supreme Court, Breaking Silence, Won’t Block Abortion Law” and not something far more alarming. The Court, in its view, simply declined to stay the law preemptively because of its “complex and novel” procedural questions and noted that it wasn’t ruling on the constitutionality of the law. This is bull and everyone knows it. I could get into the strange complexities of the law, but it doesn’t matter because both the goal and the end result is preventing abortions in the state of Texas. There is no scenario in which Roe continues to be binding precedent and this law is constitutional.
What was done under the cover of night on the “shadow docket” (where emergency stays like this are decided) for Texas this week will be done one morning in late June next year for the rest of the country. The Court has already taken Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which directly challenges Roe, for argument this term. Given what happened this week there is no reason to think the constitutional right to abortion will survive this case. At that point, elective abortions will become illegal in 22 states, including most of the south and large parts of the Midwest.
For the well-to-do in these states this will be an inconvenience. A quick flight to a big city and the same abortion services they’ve come to expect will still be available. For the middle and working class, this will be a real hardship, but an overcomable one. Border towns in states like Virginia and Illinois will become destinations for long, desperate drives to obtain an abortion. And for the poor in these states, safe, legal abortions will truly be out of reach.
The Democrats that nominally control the United States government could do something about this, and I assume they’ll get to it right after they enact protections for voting rights. Even without Roe, Congress could pass a law statutorily protecting the right to an abortion. The bill already exists, it’s called the Women’s Health Protection Act, and the Biden administration has already announced its support. With a handful of pro-choice Republicans in both chambers still around, there’s almost certainly a majority in both chambers to pass it. So, of course, the Senate filibuster is all that stands in the way in protecting abortion in America (and voting rights, for the record).1
Now what’s more important, the rights of millions of women to make their own health care choices and the protection of our country’s democracy or an arcane rule that was accidentally implemented and has been repeatedly changed throughout history? Over to you, Senators Sinema and Manchin.
Politics abroad: Japan’s Prime Minister steps down
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been in office for just under a year, but poor approval numbers have led him to announce that he won’t run in upcoming party leadership elections, meaning his time as prime minister will soon come to an end. Suga, who was elected by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) after Shinzo Abe unexpectedly resigned due to health issues, has seen his poll numbers grow increasingly worse in recent months. This has primarily been attributed to the country’s slow vaccine rollout, struggle containing COVID-19, and controversial decisions around holding the Tokyo Olympics.
LDP leadership elections are particularly important as the party has governed Japan for all but five of the last 66 years. Thanks to a fractured opposition, flexible policy program, and willingness to regularly change leaders, the LDP has made itself the dominant figure in Japanese politics. As a result, the election for party leader is almost certainly also an election for Prime Minister for the foreseeable future, despite legislative election scheduled for later this fall.
Suga’s announcement indicates a potential return to the instability of the late 2000s, when Japan (and the LDP) cycled through six leaders in six years before Abe’s eight years in office from 2012-2020, the longest administration in Japan’s history. Even before then, it was not unusual for LDP prime ministers to only make it two or three years in office before being replaced.
Before this announcement, Suga’s main opponent had been former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. Kishida has focused on launching tough measures to bring down the number of COVID-19 cases in the country and promised to limited the terms of LDP executives to three years to prevent the concentration of power among a small group. Sanae Takaichi has also been running and would be the first female leader of the LDP and first female prime minister, but it’s unclear if she has the requisite 20 nominations from lawmakers.
It’s likely that new candidates will get into the race now that Suga has bowed out. Nominations are due September 17th and the leadership election is September 29th.
What I’m watching: Plan B
How to watch: Hulu
For fans of: Booksmart, Juno
Like the first topic, my plan to hate on a terrible Netflix movie2 changed in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. Instead, I want to recommend a very timely coming of age movie on Hulu, Plan B, which came out this past May.
In the film Sunny (Kuhoo Verma), a sheltered Indian teenager, is goaded into throwing a party and ends up having sex for the first time, which she quickly regrets. After realizing the condom wasn’t used correctly, Sunny and her friend Lupe (Victoria Moroles) spend the rest of the movie tried to secure a Plan B pill for her. But the pair live in South Dakota, where pharmacists can refuse to provide emergency contraception, so it’s very hard to know where they can actually secure it.
The movie has some very funny and sweet moments but is at its best when frankly and realistically dealing with Sunny’s sex life. Sunny has sex for the first time rather impulsively and regrets it, but more for the partner and the circumstance than the loss of her virginity. And her love interest, Hunter (Michael Provost), doesn’t shame her or even act uncomfortable when Sunny’s quest is revealed, but is quietly supportive. And many of the obstacles thrown in front of Sunny are infuriating but sadly realistic.
The move is a timely reminder of the ways we already restrict women’s reproductive choices in many parts of this country. It’s sadly about to get much worse.
Yes there’s a good chance the Supreme Court would late strike down such a law but even so, it’s important to force them to do it in order to build the case against the Court and grow support for changing its composition.
He’s All That - Terrible but sometimes hilariously so