The Right to Choose

My mother was 15 when the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v Wade in 1973. She was part of the first generation of women who could come of age empowered by the right over their own bodies. “The 70s were a time when we could protest and get results,” she told me. Now, she feels that much of the progress made has disappeared. 

The overturning of abortion rights by SCOTUS is a tragic act of violence against a majority of Americans, and one that relegates the US to the status of human-rights-offender according to the WHO (“Inaccessibility of quality abortion care risks violating a range of human rights of women and girls, including the right to life…”). As the dissent argues, it is a dangerous precedent for the undoing of other rights for even more of us. What other rights do Americans hold that are not explicitly given in our constitution? The dissent points to same-sex intimacy and marriage, interacial marriage, the use of contraceptives, and the right to not be sterilized without consent. 

It’s already been difficult to endure the slowness of change, but to go backwards is absolutely devastating. As my colleague Maria, mother to a 16-year-old daughter, told me yesterday, “I can't believe the world I am living in right now.”

To me, it is clear that eliminating one’s right to this choice altogether is a rejection of the premise of democracy itself, especially in the case of our nation, where 61% of citizens polled expressed support for the right to terminate a pregnancy. So it’s reasonable to ask… why this ruling? Why now?

In speaking with Richard Wolff on Friday, he told me that “a huge portion of the SCOTUS decisions on Roe v. Wade, on guns, and much else is a kind of deeply pleasurable revenge on a recent liberal past that offended them - all papered over with a veneer of libertarianism as if SCOTUS is to be understood as protecting citizens from governmental overreach.” His choice of the word “revenge” has stuck with me for two main reasons. 

First, it carries the sense of the maliciousness that I feel underlies the ruling. Supposedly, conservatives care about preserving life in “ordered liberty;” yet, there are over 424,000 kids in foster care in the US on any given day, more than 1.5 times the average of other industrialized countries. How do conservatives justify not reducing that number, or  - more broadly - not protecting youth from surging gun violence in schools? 

Second, understanding Friday’s overturning of Roe v. Wade as a vendetta, points to the motivations of its perpetrators. If this is an act of revenge for decades worth of progress in elevating the quality of life of women, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, indigenous Americans, and more, then the SCOTUS dissent is right to flag the threat of the future undermining and loss of human rights.  

This ruling makes us face the type of democracy on which this country was founded.

This ruling makes us face the type of democracy on which this country was founded - the right to have a say in the shaping of society was given only to white men who owned property. There is mounting evidence that, as our highest court clings to an orthodox interpretation of constitutional verbiage, it may also drive us back to a time when people who identify as female, people of color, and others will be relegated to second-class citizenship.

This is the reality that moves in the undercurrents, and is not put in the spotlight. As [email protected] board member Julianna Forlano told me yesterday, “It is interesting how many Americans are shocked and had no idea this was possible or on the horizon. This speaks to the total corruption of our media environment which I hope that we, as part of [email protected] as well as our other just pursuits, are working to combat.” 

At Democracy at Work, we publish content that advocates for democracy in the workplace. But in the shadow of this ruling, it’s becoming more clear to me that, as we work to expand our access to democracy in this area, it is being hacked away in others. Today I want to underline the critical, intersectional nature of bringing more democracy into our daily lives. We all need the freedom to shape our circumstances and live our lives in a way that brings us happiness, up until the point where it infringes on someone else’s freedom. The ability to determine the outcome of one's life is not a privilege, it’s a human right. 

The ability to determine the outcome of one's life is not a privilege, it’s a human right. 

The stakes couldn’t be higher. As a new mother, I feel terrified of the emerging world my child will grow up in, knowing that democracy in the USA will continue to apply only to those on the right side of the inequality divide. But I also feel a surge of motivation. This will not be the world I leave for my child. We must work together to face this reality and expand the premise of democracy to all human beings, regardless of our diversities.

There is much to be done and many ways to do it. We stand with the millions of individuals and thousands of organizations that are tackling multiple aspects of this enormous effort for equality and justice. Thank you for joining us.


In solidarity, 

Liz Phillips
[email protected] Co-Managing & Communications Director


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