Divided States of America
Over the past year, I was working on developing a fiction short story about a divided America. This is obviously not a new idea. It’s a reality that is unfolding all around us. In my story, tension between red states and blue states resulted in border crossing military checkpoints similar to those between different countries.
Entering the “Red Zone” involved having your vehicle inspected for banned books and other contraband such as any multicolored or rainbow colored items. Identity papers were required to prove citizenship. Women and girls over 12 years old were under extra scrutiny and required to prove they were not pregnant to avoid being detained. No documentation was required for guns and other weapons.
Upon crossing the border, one could see the rolling coal smoke from diesel trucks swirling up to combine in the air with smoke from piles of banned books being burned in the streets. Schools were surrounded with barbed wire and all teachers carried guns. Militarized Hummers replaced traditional school buses. It’s a scene that to some people would consider a hellscape, but others would view it as all their dreams come true.
Entering the “Blue Zone” one would encounter a similarly exaggerated depiction of what those from the “Red Zone” would consider unappealing.
I had given up on the idea of writing the short story because it seemed too dark, too divisive, and also implausible. States having their own abortion laws was not something that could happen. Even the recent conservative justices under oath acknowledged that “Roe was settled law.” Courts tend to build upon decades of precedent rather than dismantle decades of precedent.
I didn’t realize I would wake up on a summer day in 2022 and the story I rejected as too dark would be unfolding in the news.
On 24 June 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Roe V. Wade ruling of 1973. Thus, state legislators will now determine whether women in their state will have access to abortion and, if so, under what conditions.
This is similar to other state-by-state laws, like those governing fireworks. Because each woman’s circumstances and religious views are different, it’s impossible to make case-by-case determinations. Instead, blanket laws will be established that everyone will be required to comply with.
While certainly every person’s individual faith is important, it will be necessary for the faith and beliefs of the legislators to determine the law of the land for their state. For example, determinations about when life begins will be left to the legislators. They will also decide on the manner of punishment for those who are non-compliant.
Residents of each state are free to move to a state that matches their own beliefs about when life begins. If you believe life begins at conception, there will be a state you can move to where the law reflects that belief. If you believe life begins at 8 to 9 weeks when a heartbeat can be detected, there will be a state you can move to. Some people may look to 16 or 24-week designations as a point of viability. There will likely be states that have laws aligned with that viewpoint. If you believe contraception is a violation of your faith, there will probably be one or two states where they are outlawed and you can move there.
Where family members have differing views, the family members can be split up into different states that match those views. Preferably close to borders where they can continue to visit each other.
Some people will continue to believe that women are able to decide for themselves what the best choice is for their circumstance. For those people, there will be states that continue to allow women to make their own choice. In those states, laws of eminent domain will not apply to a woman’s uterus.
State laws may change from one year to the next depending on the religious views of the controlling majority legislators in each state. This may result in tension between states with different guidelines about when life begins. It may also result in disruption for people who need to change their place of residence to align with their faith. Or, if their own beliefs change, they would need to move accordingly.
Some people view the above outcome as something to be celebrated. Others believe that 50 different states each with different laws will create confusion, disruption, divisiveness, and distress in the country. Others are upset by the ruling, and would like their own beliefs about when life begins to be reflected in a federal anti-abortion law for everyone in the country to follow. It is deeply upsetting to some people, to think that a person in a neighboring state might be living according to a different belief system.
Baby in a Basket
The final published Supreme Court decision considers the following (on page 34 of the majority opinion / page 42 of the PDF):
“States have increasingly adopted ‘safe haven’ laws, which generally allow women to drop off babies anonymously…” and “…a woman who puts her new-born up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home.”
The ruling is suggesting that having a baby does not result in a long-term parenting burden, and single parenting is no longer stigmatized. This is undoubtedly a disputed claim, but it is a significant part of the overall decision.
It’s not likely this will become an individual state-wide ballot item. Instead, individuals will vote every two to four years in support of politicians who seem to reflect views consistent with the majority of women in their state.
Men will be asked to vote for legislators who will enact laws that control what women’s freedoms will be. Of course, women will also vote, but their personal destiny will be determined by others in their state. Will men feel comfortable being required to vote on laws that impact women? Probably not. A person can refuse to vote, but that will impact the outcome as well. So, there’s no way to avoid being involved in some way.
Most state residents will feel compelled to become informed about theological issues of various faiths, as well as gaining an understanding of modern medicine, and the ethics of what we can force our neighbors to do or not do through legislation.
For the past 50 years, we had millions of women making millions of decisions, each fitting their own situation and beliefs. It was a distributed democratic system. Now we will establish a system where a small number of uninformed and uninvested people will be making life and death decisions for people they have never met and will never know. It will be very difficult and costly to establish. Innocent people may get prosecuted and incarcerated, such as a woman having a late-term miscarriage perceived to have been induced. Women may be forced to carry to term and raise children of people who assaulted them. This will become the responsibility of their spouses and existing children. The long list of possible scenarios is troubling.
Additional reading is listed alphabetically by source name.
- CNBC, 3 May 2022, “Supreme Court says leaked abortion draft is authentic; Roberts orders investigation into leak” [View]
- NPR, 24 Jun 2022, “Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ending right to abortion upheld for decades” [View]
- Politico, 2 May 2022, “Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows” [View]
- Supreme Court Final Opinion, 24 June 2022, “Dobbs v. Jackson” [View]
Rev. Robert Schenck
Below is an important reflection and commentary from Rev. Robert Schenck. He was a high-profile organizer and spokesman for Operation Rescue in New York State, a particularly aggressive anti-abortion group. (27 Jun 2022)
Below is a TED presentation by Kathryn Kolbert from 8 Dec 2021 about some services, guidelines, and resources that are mostly very far “upstream” of abortion, and thus these could result in a national and global reduction of abortions.
The alternative to what Kolbert proposes would be to reduction in education and an elimination of access to contraceptives, which would result in an increase in abortions.