Desolation Roe

Greg Gnall
3 min readMay 7, 2022


And the only sound that’s left
After the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up
On Desolation Row
-Bob Dylan

Although Chief Justice Roberts, while decrying the “breach of trust” in leaking the draft opinion of Justice Samuel Alito that undoubtedly will mean the death knell for Roe v. Wade, described it as just a draft, does anyone doubt that Roe and its related case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey will be, like Jacob Marley, “dead as a doornail” when the final opinion is issued? The immediate result will be that at least half the states will once again effectively outlaw abortion in their jurisdictions, putting women’s rights behind most of the developed world including once Catholic fortresses such as Ireland and Colombia. And there is no telling what a probable Republican majority in Congress after this year’s mid-term elections will do nationwide and to other precedents based on privacy rights.

The hypocrisies in the Republicans’ lock-step pro-life stance are manifold. This is a party that mostly stands against mandated vaccines for the sake of the public health because of a supposed right to decide what to do with one’s own body, but has no problem telling women what they can do with theirs. Not to mention their credo that “all life is sacred,” that seems to extend only to the point of birth. After that, you’re on your own as government support for children and their families takes its place behind military spending and corporate tax cuts as legislative priorities.

Certainly the decision whether or not to have a child is not an easy one, morally or otherwise. But I do know that it should be every woman’s right to decide for herself. However, “pro-choice” does not mean “pro abortion.” It just means that every woman gets to choose. Ideally, ready access to safe and effective birth control should lessen the need for abortions. But the pious arbiters of the issue, particularly Evangelicals and conservative Catholics, also oppose making birth control easy and cheap to obtain. Go figure that one.

Even those who will concede that some exceptions should be made to an outright ban on abortion couch them in excruciatingly narrow terms. Not even incest and rape are excluded in some of the legislation. And when the issue of a woman’s health is raised, it usually only matters when a woman is on the verge of death without the procedure.

Of course, abortion bans will never to be easy to enforce, particularly when the majority of the cases now involve effective and safe pills that mostly mimic miscarriages. But obstacles such as requiring an in-person visit to a doctor will do their best to impose draconian control over the most personal of decisions.

Although many Constitutional scholars, regardless of their view on the substantive issue, have thought that Roe was always vulnerable because of its reliance on a questionable right to privacy, it seemed to be accepted as established law after nearly 50 years. Even Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch assured the rare Republican to favor choice, Susan Collins of Maine, that it was so, thereby securing her confirmation vote. Poor you, Susan, for believing them. Maine voters will take notice if she dares to run again.

Despite Alito’s language in the draft opinion that this is about “ the constitutional right to abortion and no other right,” overturning such a long-standing precedent because it was “egregiously wrong from the start,” sets a dangerous new ground for ignoring stare decisis. And regardless of Amy Coney Barrett’s assertion that the Court “is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” who decide opinions based on political views, this is nothing but a political decision.

Of course, none of this happened suddenly. The pro-life movement has been consorting with the Federalist Society for decades to implant exactly the kind of judges we now have on the Court to ultimately overturn Roe. And they finally found a president in Trump who would do their bidding. And, for a guy who had made a career out of abusing the legal system, his appointments to the Court are likely to have serious repercussions for years to come. We can expect this Court to rule on a number of issues under the principle of “God, guns and family.” But, as of now, family doesn’t seems to include women.