► “The abortion debate, the battle horse of the conservatives”
Johannes Thimmpolitical scientist at the German Institute of International Relations (SWP) in Berlin
A political debate around abortion always provokes strong emotional reactions, in all societies. The subject itself is polarizing. In the United States, the abortion rights debate has also become a symbol of a cultural struggle between conservatives and progressives. A cultural struggle is the sign of a deeply divided society.
→ THE CONTEXT. In the United States, the Supreme Court could decide to reverse the right to abortion
The United States has changed a lot in recent years, the classic Republican Party electorate (white, rural) is dwindling. The majority of the population has progressive beliefs (nearly 60% of Americans are for the right to abortion).
On the other side is a Republican Party that sees “the American Way of Life” under threat and whose program is increasingly right-wing. The abortion debate, a conservative warhorse, has been going on for decades, even if the tone has become harsher of late. But with a majority of Republican Supreme Court justices, it became possible for the first time to play Roe vs. Wade, who allows abortion.
When it was adopted in 1973, the Republican Party was primarily a business party, advocating lower taxes and free markets, and focused its program on the economy. Meanwhile, he lost popular support and took a defensive position. But instead of adapting to the zeitgeist and opening up to a new electorate like the Latinos, Republicans are trying to manipulate the electoral laws and stay substantively right-wing. Critical positions such as those of the Black Lives Matter movement become, in conservative logic, an attack on the American tradition and its heroes.
→ EXPLANATION. Right to abortion in the United States: what you need to know about the Supreme Court project
In this regard, the fronts have hardened even in the liberal camp, but in a less disturbing way. A general culture of outrage is fueled by the media and social networks. This not only divides society, but threatens to completely paralyze the democratic process. Where once a cross-party consensus was reached, black-and-white thinking now prevails.
The Supreme Court itself has lost much of its legitimacy and popularity in recent years due to its ideological decisions and the election of its judges, which sparked a media struggle. If the Supreme Court goes against the majority of the population and removes the right to abortion, it loses more and more recognition. Such a judgment should mobilize Americans to vote in the midterm elections in November.
► “The American Democratic Machine Has Been Seized”
Romain Huret, American historian, director of studies at EHESS
The swell that has been sweeping across parts of America against “Roe vs. Wade” for fifty years has never stopped. The tide of opposition to this Supreme Court decision spawned the pro-life movement, much talked about in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1990s-2000s, his ideas made great strides in the country, favoring narrowing the scope of Roe vs. wade.
But for ten years now, this movement has focused on the higher echelons: no longer just the states, but the federal state itself. Several presidents, including Donald Trump, have voted for extremely conservative Supreme Court justices to complete work completed the day after the Roe vs. Wade decision has begun. To them, this seemed like a real “betrayal” of the Constitution, judges who had no right to legislate over the private lives of American citizens. Still, the original focus of Roe vs. Wade not on abortion, but on the health risks for women. For example, in the Constitution we find elements that argue for respect for the privacy, physical integrity and health of citizens.
→ ANALYSIS. In the United States, a majority of Catholics remain in favor of legalizing abortion
America is more polarized than ever on social and cultural issues. Sometimes it feels like we live in two completely different countries. Rather than a radicalization of American society, I prefer to speak of an increasingly uninhibited expression facilitated by the emergence of ‘Trump babies’, these representatives of the conservative right who no longer take gloves off to say what ‘they think’. Until then, the moderates among the Democrats and Republicans had managed to sort of… mode vivendi on abortion, by accepting a conditional right. Today, this search for consensus is extremely difficult, and the debate is crystallizing around the law itself, with certain officials no longer willing to accept it.
America is becoming increasingly difficult to govern. What’s happening in the Supreme Court is the translation of this, with this unprecedented leak: Someone in this jurisdiction has denied what appears to be the Court’s majority orientation, and is refusing the usual practice – if we lose, we have the right to a deviant express an opinion, but under no circumstances enjoy a flight. Obviously this setting no longer works as usual. The divisions and positions of each other seem incompatible with regard to the major social themes. The American democratic machine, in particular, has been seized.
The feminist movement has been very dynamic in the United States for a decade and we can expect the emergence of massive demonstrations to defend the right to abortion very soon.