GUEST BLOG: Nadine McDonnell – Abortion, now what?


I am not an American – as in citizen of the United States of America.  [Of course, I am an American in the sense that I was, as were my parents and their parents before them, born in the Americas.]  Still the recent decision of the US Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade is disturbing – seriously.

There are a number of reasons.  First, I support choice.  I believe that women have the right, once impregnated by a man, to choose whether or not to carry that child to term.  This is a right of the pregnant woman.  

Second, I believe that women have this right even though I do not believe in rights.  Quite simply, as the recent decision shows, rights are as Jeremy Betham once noted, ‘nonsense on stilts’.   Reading the Supreme Court majority in Dobbs, it is clear that any freedom based on some 20th Century idea about rights is really only as real as a group of well-paid guys think it should be.  However, the rights can also be seen as respect for the dignity and humanity of others.  Respect for others exists when all people are recognized and treated with kindness and care.  With respect, people would accept that when a woman choosing to have sex with a man is not choosing to bring a child into the world any more than a man choosing to have sex with a woman is doing so.  And, with respect, in an intimate relationship when a child is conceived, the decision to keep or abort the fetus is the woman’s to make, because it is her body and her life which allows the process, the miracle of birth, to happen.  To call this decision a ‘right’, in some respects, diminishes what is being asked of the woman.  A right becomes property, an aspect of ownership.  The right to choose is more than a woman’s property like  her clothes or her car – her stuff that she can use, abuse, or even sell depending on whim.  It is about her life – her dignity, conatus.  The decision to have a child is more than a right.  At the same time, I accept that rights are the way we talk about such things.  

Third, while removing women’s right to choose is disturbing, the decision threatens the Rule of Law.  EP Thompson controversially characterized the Rule of Law as an amazing cultural achievement.  The fact that rights have come to dominate much of legal discourse since WW2 does not diminish the importance of the law in ensuring economic and social stability – while at the same time as enhancing individual freedom.  I could warble on about this as it is hard to understate the role of law.  Simply stated, this role depends on the law as being seen as legitimate.  The legitimacy of the Supreme Court of the United States, a court at the pinnacle the judicial hierarchy in that country, has been under serious threat since the installation of George W. Bush as President in 2001.  A recent poll of Americans indicated that only one in four Americans now hold the Supreme Court in great respect.  If the Court’s legitimacy rests on the justices being ‘above politics’, being men and women of personal integrity whose decisions are based not on personal or religious belief but on an interpretation of the law, the decision in Dobbs v Jackson does the Court’s reputation serious harm  Worse, three members of the court who ruled to overturn Roe v Wade mislead the Senate during their confirmation hearings.  During those hearing three justices, when asked about their position on Roe v. Wade spoke about the importance of stare decisions, the role of precedent.  Even when directly asked they did not state they would overturn Roe v. Wade at the first opportunity to do so.  Rather they stated that they would respect established law.  It is now quite clear that such answers misrepresented their views.  The answers they gave when asked about Roe v. Wade now can be appreciated as skillful dissimulation.  The three justice spoke with the intention to mislead and, in fact, did mislead a number of Senators into believing that they would not overturn Roe v. Wade.  It makes no difference that a number of Senators did not, at the time of the hearings believe the nominees.  What matters is that several Senators did believe that they would not overturn Roe v. Wade and that if they had been honest, they would likely not have been appointed to the Supreme Court.  It now seems clear that they lied.  Under oath.  Before a committee of the Senate and on national tv.  The problem now is summed up by Nietzche when he noted (paraphrasing) – I am not angry that you lied so much as I am upset that I will never be able to trust you again.  So what else are these Justices lying about?  Whose interests are they serving?

The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health is disturbing.  It reveals that women in the US are second class citizens, that the Supreme Court of the US lacks respect bordering on misogyny, and that a majority of that Court doesn’t have a clue about how the legal system is supposed to work.  Given the states where abortion will remain legal, many women will have access to abortion for now.  Of course, the poor living in deep red states will suffer.  And the Supreme Court’s gang of five are not done yet.  But as with things like prohibition, where a majority of the people dislike the law, it proves difficult to enforce.  Religious bigotry can only go so far.

Nadine McDonnell:  I arrived in New Zealand from Vancouver in the 1980’s.  Legally trained, I have been an enduring student of politics – and philosophy.  Over the years I have come to appreciate the importance of ideas – and the ability to talk about them.


  1. “So what else are these Justices lying about? Whose interests are they serving?”

    For the most part they are serving corporate interests. Conservative or liberal they typically have a history of making pro business decisions and anti unions and worker rights. Ketanji Brown-Jackson seems like an exception especially as Michelle Childs (union busting and war on drugs) was being pushed at the time.
    The media focuses on cultural issues but rarely discusses the court’s impact on labour relations.

    • I don’t think Clarence Thomas suggesting to now go after things like same sex marriage and contraception is anything to do with corporate interests. He is a lying bastard ( apparently didn’t know his psycho wife was a fascist)

      • @Wheel yes that one is not corporate interests, the justices have their bias towards culturally liberal and culturally conservative issues which is what media and public tend to focus on, like your response to my original comment.

        Cultural issues like RvW are important but they are also used to prevent examination of corporate/labour issues. Nadine McDonnell asked “So what else are these Justices lying about? Whose interests are they serving?” I was attempting to provide an answer.

      • @Wheel also if the Democrats really wanted to stop Clarence Thomas in his tracks they could pass legislation to protect same sex marriage and access to contraception while they still have a majority in Congress. They could do the same for abortion rights now or at almost any time they had a majority or super majority in the last nearly 50 years.

        I suspect they won’t because it politically expedient to keep a grievance issue alive rather than resolve it. I fault the democrats as much as the republicans for this.

        • Ok, I wasn’t attempting to talk up the Democrats Tui I was just pointing out that Thomas has motives other than placating corporate interests ( in addition to being somewhat dishonest)

        • You dont understand the political landscape of the USA. Dems are dependent on Latinos and Blacks who are generally conservative and dont like, or dont care about feminist/LGBT stuff. Only the Dem (mostly) White elite are pushing it.

          So there are plenty of Dem congress people who would get blown out of the water by their constituents if they were on record as voting for abortion, gun control etc.

          Thats why the Liberal political elite took the route to the Supreme Court for the last 50 years or so. Now the Republicans have cut them off at the pass.

          • @MR Yes you are right that black and latino voters tend to be more culturally conservative than white voters. However on abortion, pro-choice is a majority even position among Republican voters let alone Democrat. Yes some Democrats may loose their seats, notably Nancy “the poet” Pelosi was doing the rounds for a pro-life democrat only a couple of weeks ago, however it would hardly be a bloodbath. Infact, this year I’d suggest the overturn of RvW is the best thing the Democrats have for the mid-terms unless enough voters connect the decision to their inaction.

            “Thats why the Liberal political elite took the route to the Supreme Court for the last 50 years or so”
            Agree on that, so they don’t have to make hard choices Congress routinely kicks issues up to the Supreme Court which becomes a proxy for actual legislation.


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