For travelers, the border between Washington and Idaho has always been little more than an invisible line marked by two signs, one saying “welcome” and the other saying “thanks for visiting.” Now, though, depending on your point of view, it is either a demarcation line between freedom and government-imposed restrictions on a woman’s right to control her own body or a border between a place where life is valued and one where burgeoning life can be discarded.
Joining the movement that is sweeping through Republican-dominated states, the Idaho legislature and governor have put into place some of the most severe restrictions on abortion in the country. Montana has followed in the same direction. With a good chance that, this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ‘s conservative majority will overturn Roe v. Wade — the decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states back in 1973 — it is expected that as many as 26 states will soon ban abortions in almost all circumstances.
That means that women with unwanted pregnancies residing in those states will be looking for borders to cross to get to states, such as Washington, in which abortion will still be legal. Already, abortion providers in Washington are reporting a jump in the number of patients from Idaho and Montana, as well as from states as far away as Texas. One estimate says demand for abortions in this state will rise by 385% if Roe is tossed out by the high court.
Of all the ways America is polarizing along philosophical and geographical lines, the abortion divide may prove to be the most stark. It is an issue fraught with emotion and anger, pitting religious beliefs against libertarian values, fundamentalism against feminism, right against left, government power against women at their most vulnerable.
Compromise is farther away than ever. We are a house divided.
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