The 19th century Mason-Dixon Line marked the boundary between slave states in the South and free states in the North. With the Friday ruling overturning Roe V. Wade, the six conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court drew a 21st century line between states where abortion will be mostly or entirely illegal and states where the right to abortion will be protected.
The new line demarcating anti-abortion states takes in much of the old Confederacy, then snakes up through parts of the Midwest and stretches on out to Idaho, by way of the Dakotas and Wyoming. Here in Washington we will be very aware of that invisible line as women in Idaho cross the border to obtain the procedure in our state. Gov. Jay Inslee has already made it clear they will be welcome.
The divide may not be as horrific as the one created by slavery, but it will be stark. In several states ruled by radical Republicans, abortion will be illegal even in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the pregnant woman. More than 90% of Americans favor abortion if the mother’s life is in danger and more than 80% think abortion should be allowed if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. But the opinions of that vast majority of Americans did not matter to the Supreme Court majority and it certainly will not sway the Republican legislators and governors who will be instituting abortion bans.
It is a good bet that most Americans have some ambivalent feelings about abortion. Most do not favor it in the later stages of pregnancy, but most also do not want to see it banned in all cases. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has done away with a legal precedent that, for half a century, set reasonable rules for when abortion is allowed.
Now, the zealots will be in charge in half the country and the geography of our divided nation will be tragically easy to see.
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