“Forced motherhood is female enslavement” pleaded a pro-choice protester. Is slavery really what we are reverting to in 2022?
In May of 2022, an initial draft of the Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was obtained and leaked by a journalist before the final court ruling. This case was argued by the Supreme Court on December 1st, 2021, but was officially decided upon on June 24th, 2022. The ruling challenged a Mississippi law that aimed to ban abortion after fifteen weeks of pregnancy. The idea of a woman’s ability to make decisions on their health all across America was contested in this case. Five Supreme Court Justices deciding the fate of women’s reproductive rights choose to overturn Roe V Wade, a right that has been protected for nearly fifty years. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Justice Amy Coney Barrier, and Chief Justice John Roberts Jr declared that the constitution did not protect the right to abortion, giving states the authority to set their own abortion policies. Three of these justices were nominated by former president Donald Trump. President Trump selected republican justices to fill the vacant seats in the Supreme Court, turning the court more conservative. How can one person have so much power over the fate of America? Donald Trump was able to use his authoritative power to take away the rights of half of the population in the United States.
Since the overturn of Roe V. Wade, millions of people across the United States have begun protesting the decision. People are using their voices and freedom of speech to advocate for and against abortion restrictions. This idea of having rights are taken away from women has led to uncertainty in our nation’s future. It is leaving people scared and feeling helpless. Trust in American democracy is depleting, leading to democratic erosion.
In the afternoon of October 15th 2022, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Massachusetts State House, shutting down Beacon Hill. A pro-life protest had broken out. Down the center of the road, there were intricate placed silver barricades you would typically see at a concert. These barricades outlined the protesters in the street, creating a clear divide between the people in support of reproductive rights and those against it. This protest was a real-life display of political polarization. On one side of the barricade there was a large group of pro-life protesters present, generally consisting of white middle-aged men. These men were dressed formally, with many wearing suits holding signs that read “personhood now”. On the other side of the barricade, I stood proudly with other teenagers and women advocating for reproductive rights. It is typical to see protests on the Boston Common and near the State House, but this was not an ordinary protest. Beacon Street, a main roadway in Boston was blocked off, not allowing through vehicle traffic. A protest to this scale and this location would require a permit from the state of Massachusetts. There is a fee also associated with protest permits, which led me to believe there was an organization running the protest. Boston police officers were also present and strategically placed along the route of the protest. They did not engage with protest participants, rather they just watched. The groups chanted back and forth at each other, pleading their case.
This ruling has drastically affected the health of democracy in the United States. A Pew Research Center Report from July 2022 found that 82% of democrats and democratic-leaning independents disapprove of the court’s decision of overturning Roe V Wade. 70% of republicans and republican-leaning independents approve the court’s ruling. Pew Research Center also concluded that since this decision the United States Supreme Court’s favorability rating has significantly dropped in the eyes of democrats. Now only 28% of democrats and democratic-leaning independents view the court as favorable. The rating has decreased by a whopping 18% since the leak of the ruling of the Dobbs v Jackson case. On the contrary, republicans and republican leaning independents put the Supreme Court at a 65% favorable rating, and after the ruling, it went up to a 73% approval rating. This drastic difference in trust in the government and the Supreme Court could have numerous effects on democracy. Democracy works when people believe that their vote matters. A healthy democracy represents its citizens’ wants and needs. An example of this would be the leaders treating their people well, whether it’s through upholding rights or giving them a voice. A bad democracy embodies autocratic consolidation and weak autonomy. The characteristics of a bad government are slowly becoming more evident in today’s American governmental system, which is parallel to democratic erosion. The once strong American democracy is falling apart and we vividly saw this shift during the decision of the Dobbs V Jackson Case. People in power, which are the justices in this case, are taking away the rights of United States Citizens.
According to the polls, there is still hope. Before the midterm election, a document was published by 19th News exclaiming that two in five voters say they will be more motivated to turn out to polls if Roe V. Wade is overturned. This notion held true in the 2022 midterm election. It had the second highest voter turnout rate. There was specifically saw a spike in youth voter turnout. Generation Z is playing a large role in politics and has become more active over the years. Voter turnout has increased, parallel to the influx of recent protests. These groups of youth advocating for political change are coming of age to put their words into action, thus drawing them to the polls. Youth want to elect leaders who are different from Donald Trump, and today’s justices, who are going to stand up for their rights. These advances are taken by the younger generations, and in turn, will slow democratic erosion.
In Honors American Politics we have focused on civic engagement and youth turnout. We have participated in meaningful discussions in class about the state of the American government, and democracy. This topic overlaps with social media and how Generation Z is a cohort of change. In a POLITICO podcast assigned to us on October 25th, Eugene Daniels argued how Twitter can carry a politician to victory. He elaborated on the ways that social media, specifically Twitter has “warped politics”. I believe that there are both positives and negatives to modern-day social media. Twitter is filled with both misinformation and disinformation, contributing to political corruption. But it is also a revolutionary change agent. Twitter currently has three hundred and nine hundred and six million users. It is a platform where millions of people can connect with each other and spread information rapidly. Through this, it encourages protests and fosters social movements. Twitter is the platform I found the protest I attended, where I engaged civically and exercised my first amendment.
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