Publisher’s note: Frida Ghitis, (@fridaghitis) a former producer and correspondent for CNN, is a columnist on world affairs. She is a weekly opinion contributor for CNN, a columnist for The Washington Post, and a columnist for the World Politics Review. The opinions expressed in this comment belong solely to the author of it. See more opinions on CNN.
(CNN) — The right of women to decide if they want to carry a pregnancy to term is expanding to almost every corner of the world. In Latin America, a deeply Catholic region, the so-called Green Tide is ending restrictions, country by country. To the north, however, the United States appears ready to swim against the tide, removing women’s right to choose an abortion.
But why does the United States seem to be moving in the opposite direction from much of the world? What other rights could be at risk?
the shocking revelation that the United States Supreme Court seems ready to strike down Roe v. Wade, the law that legalized abortion decades ago, added to the impression around the world that the United States, long a bastion of individual liberty, is becoming more conservative by the day.
However, that is the wrong conclusion. The engine of this change is not a more conservative country, but a more dysfunctional political system.
In the last two decades, dozens of countries they have changed their abortion laws, and almost all of them have made abortion more accessible. In the most developed countries abortion has continued to be available and is not a terribly controversial topic.
The American people have consistently told pollsters that they want the freedom guaranteed by Roe v. Wade remains in force. Survey after survey, year after year, a solid majority of Americans has made that clear. And yet the Supreme Court, judging by the draft opinion that was just leaked, has voted to strike down a fundamental right that was supposed to be “established law.” That said, the leak is just a draft and may not be the court’s final decision.
How is it possible that a democratic system eliminates established rights favored by the people from whom all power is supposed to emanate? That is only possible because the system is not working as it should.
The Supreme Court, which, according to leaked document, has voted to strip American women of a fundamental right guaranteed to more and more women around the world, is made up of judges whose path to the bench is fraught with democratic dysfunction. Five of the nine were nominated by presidents who took office after losing the popular vote but winning the Electoral College: Donald Trump and George W. Bush (although Bush won the popular majority for his second term, not his first).
The court would also have looked very different if Republican Senator Mitch McConnell had not made a ruse, blocking then-President Barack Obama from filling a vacancy on the court by claiming a presidential election was looming when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, and Obama was still in office for nearly a year. Without any sign of shame, in 2020, McConnell expedited the confirmation of Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died weeks before the election.
Without these shady maneuvers, the court could today have a liberal majority and the right to abortion would not be at risk.
It seems that now, despite public opinion, despite the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion, the fundamentalist christian point of view that life begins at conception could shape the laws of the country.
American democracy is seriously faltering. Primary elections favor activists from both parties, promoting fringe views that do not represent popular opinion. To make matters worse, unequal representation means that a smaller and smaller percentage of the population elects a larger and larger percentage of the Senate, as each state gets two senators regardless of size. According to an estimate30% of Americans will elect 70% of the Senate by the year 2040.
That means the people who make the laws in Washington have views that are often at odds with those of the people. It is one of the reasons why, for example, most Americans are in favor of increased restrictions to gun ownership, but Congress is deadlocked on this issue, thanks in part to the big donations of pro-gun groups, even as gun violence leaves thousands dead each year.
Right now, however, the most alarming disconnect is between the country and the Supreme Court.
The history of mankind, as the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich believed Hegel, is the progress of the consciousness of freedom. The search for freedom is the engine of humanity. But in America, the arc of history seems poised to go in the opposite direction, and sooner than we might think.
In its revocation project de Roe vs. Wade, Judge Samuel Alito clearly alluded to other rulings that transformed the lives of millions of Americans: Obergfell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, and Lawrence vs. Texas, which decriminalized same-sex relationships.
Although Alito argues that abortion rights are different from other rulings on “intimate” relationships, his reasoning about abortion can be seen to apply to those rights, whose rulings are even less “rooted” than Roe.
This is a clear message that the Supreme Court, and the fundamentalist Christian political movement, could soon take aim at those decisions. The leaked draft would create the legal basis for trying to push LGBTQ people back into the shadows. The politicians already they are sowing that land, with the goal of garnering votes, no matter how many lives are destroyed in the process.
LGBTQ rights, now potentially in jeopardy, are supported by large majorities. The marriage support between people of the same sex has been increasing for years, and now stands at around 70%. And the idea that consensual same-sex relationships should be legal is endorsed by nearly four out of five Americans.
But even that level of support cannot guarantee the survival of rights.
However, it is very possible that the extreme right is exaggerating. American democracy is in crisis, but it is very much alive, and the prospect of losing personal rights will arouse a sense of urgency and could boost political participation.
Around the world, those who have been fighting for reproductive rights, especially women’s groups like those leading the Green Tide in Latin America, have been seen for their determination to secure their freedoms and for a series of shocking victories. In the US, it may take a shocking defeat, or perhaps the discovery that a major defeat is imminent, to transform the political landscape.
After all, Americans aren’t necessarily out of step with the rest of the world. It is its politicians, its judges and its weak democracy that make it seem that way.