It is prime time for feel-good nostalgic trips to the ‘untainted’ recent past, it seems. Top Gun is once again breaking box-office records while Kate Bush’s old hit tops the charts. Could it be, though, that this obsession with nostalgia has gone a tad too far in the US, I wonder? Hardly had we sobered up from our Midsummer sun-worshipping rituals this weekend, when we found out that across the ocean, the Supreme Court of the world’s largest democracy had magically reversed time by almost fifty years.
R.I.P. Roe v. Wade!
A strange turn of events indeed. Back in 1973, a less conservative SCOTUS ruled that unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional. Generations of Americans grew up taking it for granted that it was so. Now it’s time to reconsider. “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” stated Justice Samuel Alito and the court’s majority opinion last Friday.
Of course, the ruling of Alito and co. does not mean anti-abortion laws are now national. Oh, no, the honourable justices are just enablers. They simply pave the way for states to ban or severely restrict women’s right to decide for themselves. And according to Guttmacher Institute, twenty-six states are expected to do so immediately. The list of states certain to ban abortion, from Alabama to Wyoming, is long, and they all have laws or constitutional amendments already in place to do it as quickly as possible. Well, even if the ruling hadn’t leaked a month in advance (which it did), the deal was as good as sealed for those following the recent years’ judicial appointments.
Judging by the flurry of posts on social media, an overwhelming majority of the sustainability community does not feel all that nostalgic about the pre-Roe v. Wade era. They have embraced the issue with apparent ease, vehemently protesting the latest developments in the US. Featured prominently on LinkedIn and Twitter are, for instance, images of the notorious RBG (the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), alongside a famous quote of hers: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself.” Strictly speaking, of course, RBG was hardly a fan of Roe v. Wade, a ruling she deemed too swiftly shaped and thus unstable. “My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum on the side of change,” the wise lady explained in a rather prophetic manner, adding that the decision gave “opponents a target to aim at relentlessly.”
Legal nightmare apart, the abortion issue itself is, of course, incredibly morally complicated. Not only is it dangerously entangled with both politics and religion, but it is also rather emotionally loaded. Cancel me if you will, but I do think that both sides of the raging pro-life vs pro-choice debate have some valid points and raise relevant questions, making it a delicate matter, to be handled with the utmost caution and humility.
Yet, while acknowledging the underlying issue’s inherent ambiguity, there are certain facts that shouldn’t be ignored. UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, summarises it for those unable (or unwilling) to comprehend the consequences of anti-abortion laws: “Whether abortion is legal or not, it happens all too often. Data show that restricting access to abortion does not prevent people from seeking abortion, it simply makes it more deadly.” According to the agency, nearly half of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended, and most of those may end in abortion. As it stands today, a staggering 45 per cent of all abortions worldwide are unsafe, making this a leading cause of maternal death. Now, that’s what I call strange. Why on earth would anyone want to pile on to these already miserable stats?
Nostalgia, that yearning for an idealised past, can be deceptive. It is what psychoanalysts refer to as ‘screen memory’, with negative emotions filtered out. Perhaps someone should remind the honourable justices that not everything was all that great back in the days.
 The legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 1973, ruled (7–2) that a set of Texas statutes criminalising abortion in most instances violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy, which it found to be implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (“…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”).