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Tuesday, May 14, 2019


There is increasing reason to fear that some time in the next year, the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.  I leave it to you to check the news and seek out Justice Breyer’s warning that the High Court seems increasingly ready to overturn precedent.  This would be a disaster for untold numbers of women.  What can be done?

I leave to one side fantasies about a car crash on the way to the Inauguration of President-elect Warren in which Justices Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Gorsuch are killed, and also pie-in-the-sky plans to increase the Court by two positions.  Let me suggest a radical but perhaps manageable plan that could adapt to the new legal landscape.

According to Google [citing the Guttmacher Institute], there are maybe 930,000 abortions a year in the United States,  Many of them are performed in states where abortions would continue to be legal if Roe were overturned.  Inasmuch as California and New York are among many the abortion friendly states, I will assume that perhaps 400,000 of the yearly abortions are in states intent upon criminalizing the procedure.  Now, it is of course legal for a woman in one of those benighted states to take a plane to another state and have the abortion there, and I am sure even now, when states like Texas have made it so difficult to obtain an abortion, there are a good many upper middle class women who can afford to do just that.  Let us assume that leaves 300,000 women a year needing abortions for whom arranging and taking such a trip is either very difficult or in fact impossible.

What to do?

Here is an idea, bizarre but legal and, with sufficient organizing skill and enough money, manageable.  Suppose a national organization were to be formed, using many social media platforms, to offer an abortion assistance service.  Once the organization was contacted, it would send a representative to the woman’s home [in a random, unmarked, ordinary unnoticeable car].  With the driver would be someone trained to administer a pregnancy test.  If it is positive, and if she can produce proof that she is not a minor, the driver will either drive her to another state and call ahead to arrange for the abortion at a safe clinic, or book a flight for her to an abortion-friendly state, where she will be met and taken to a clinic.  She will stay overnight and be taken home.  If she is a minor, she will have to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

What would this whole business cost each year?  For 300,000 abortions, I am guessing 1 billion dollars [$3,300 each] should cover it.

So, the plan would require the public to donate a billion dollars.  That is a lot of money, but it is entirely doable, with sufficient public relations promotion.  Perhaps Planned Parenthood could run the whole thing.

Obviously anti-abortion forces would do a variety of things to disrupt the operation.  It would be a struggle.  But if Roe is overturned, the ground level outrage is going to be deafening.

Lord knows, I cannot organize such an effort.  But someone could.


marcel said...

In coverage of the GA law, I have read speculation that because that law confers legal personhood on the fetus, women who go out of state for an abortion could nevertheless be prosecuted for planning or conspiracy to commit murder (IANAL, so I don't have the details correct, but, gentle reader, this is what google is for). This would certainly be an issue for the driver and others in the car that you mention. All it would take is one woman sympathetic to that new law to entrap these people.

Anonymous said...

"... fantasies about a car crash ... in which Justices Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Gorsuch are killed..."

I am not one for political correctness, and I am nothing if not easygoing. But really?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Marcel, very troubling. Let me ask a lawyer. Anonymous, give me a break! I will trade those three lives for all trhe lives that would be saved.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

My partner, a mid-wife by profession, is very active in the women's reproductive health movement/abortion rights. Through her, I was, a few years ago, made aware of the Clergy Consultation Service. I discovered then that a good friend, an Episcopal minister, was a member of the service. It's a fascinating story of protestant and jewish clergy and an underground system to assist women in finding safe abortions pre Roe v. Wade. From Wikipedia:

The Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (CCS) was a group of American clergy that counseled and referred people to licensed doctors for safe abortions before the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade made abortion legal nationwide.[1] Started in 1967 by a group of 21 Protestant ministers and Jewish rabbis in New York City, the group operated out of Judson Memorial Church[2] and grew to incorporate chapters in thirty-eight states with some 3,000 clergy as members.[1] By the time of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, it is estimated that the Clergy Consultation Service had nationally referred at least 450,000 people for safe abortions.[3] The Clergy Consultation Service also started Women's Services, an abortion clinic in New York City, in 1970 after statewide legislation made abortion legal in New York State.[1]

David Palmeter said...

Marcel's point is well-taken. Some conservatives will attempt to get the S.Ct. to find that, not only should Roe be overruled, but that the fetus be determined to be a person with full constitutional rights. Such a holding would prohibit states from allowing abortions, as a growing number did before Roe.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was right--the Roe case never should have been brought. Abortion rights were being won without any fanfare in the states. Moreover, she was right on the theory of the case. Blackmun's opinion was based on the right to privacy--a weak reed, something that isn't even mentioned in the text of the Constitution. Her preferred theory was equal protection,i.e., the denial of a medical procedure to women: the 14th Amendment.

Just thinking of this kind of thing, to say nothing of the daily headlines (today, Trump angling for war with Iran; trade war with China), rekindles my extreme anger at those bastards who weren't "inspired" enough by Clinton to go and vote for her.

s. wallerstein said...

Even if Marcel is right, the situation could be the spark of a massive civil disobedience movement, with people risking jail to take women for abortions over state line. If enough people were willing to run that risk and enough good lawyers were willing to defend them free of charge, we'd get into a very interesting situation and the so-called resistance would finally become a real resistance movement.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Chris, I had no idea that I was idly reinventing the wheel! What an extraordinary and uplifting story.

DDA said...

@Palmeter Since that would criminalize all those upper-middle-class IVF pregnancies (lots of embryos flushed) it isn't going to happen.
And can we dispense with the mythology that Clinton lost because lefties didn't vote for her. And we can dispense with the Bernie bros. myth at the same time.

Jeremy said...

I suspect certain extant groups will expand to do precisely the sort of thing you describe here. My guess is the Yellowhammer Fund ( will be a good resource.

Danny said...

abortion is largely illegal in Mexico, anything bizarre to suggest for that?

Anonymous said...

You might also consider supporting a group like Aid Access ( which sends Mifepristone and Misoprostol by mail to women, for free. It may become illegal to take such pills; but still, an option.