Roe v Wade: I fear this could spark a new civil war argues JUSTIN WEBB

It may sound incendiary, but I fear this could spark a new civil war: It is not just that the impending decision to strike out Roe v Wade will exacerbate divisions… It is also a seminal moment in the battle between Left and Right, argues JUSTIN WEBB

Nothing compares to it. No aspect of American life is so explosive. No dispute so completely insoluble. Race, class, inequality: all the other issues tearing America in two can be set aside. Abortion trumps them all.

This struck me years ago when I was reporting on the campaign trail during the Obama election. I was talking to a group of Republican voters in rural Ohio. It was a sunny day. They had been complimenting me on my English accent. The mood was light.

But when I asked about Obama it darkened. He is ‘a murderer’ they said. He would kill babies.

They didn’t shout this, they just said it matter-of-factly. And they believed it.

Obama’s views on abortion were not particularly extreme: he upheld the constitutional right to an abortion in every state, but wanted fewer of them. Most Americans agree with that.

But plenty do not. And while the overwhelming majority of anti-abortion campaigners are peaceful, the language and the tactics of others in the movement have been anything but.

There have been murders. Beginning nearly 30 years ago when David Gunn, a gynaecologist who carried out abortions, was shot dead after a protest in which his face had appeared on wanted posters. Two receptionists in an abortion clinic in Massachusetts were killed in 1994.

Justin Webb believes the argument over abortion in the US could lead to a new civil war (pictured: pro-abortion and anti-abortion demonstrators protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court)

President Joe Biden said women have a ‘fundamental’ right to an abortion and pledged the White House would be ‘ready when any ruling is issued’

A draft of a U.S. Supreme Court brief was leaked Monday that suggests the court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade case

Dr George Tiller (pictured) was murdered in 2009 while at a church service for providing late-term abortions

A late-term abortion provider, George Tiller, was shot dead during a church service in Kansas. He had survived a previous attempt on his life. And among the killings there has been what abortion rights campaigners describe as an epidemic of lower level but still terrifying anti-abortion violence involving arson, firebombing and attacks in the street. Yet it is not just the fact that the Supreme Court’s impending decision to strike out Roe v Wade will exacerbate the divisions and inflame the terrifying anger over the abortion debate.

It is also a seminal moment in the battle between Left and Right, liberals and conservatives, Biden and Trump.

The judgment is a direct result of Donald Trump filling the Supreme Court, when he was President, with Right-wing Justices who are anti-abortion. Appalled liberals say this flies in the face of democracy, and should never happen again.

So this could develop into something much bigger — a battle about how the U.S. is run. A battle about the very core of what the nation is. About legitimacy. A battle that will persuade some Americans to press for the most radical of steps.

Abortion, which had not interested most Americans until the early 1970s, became a battleground at the heart of the nation’s politics at the start of that decade, and many Americans were radicalised as a result.

On the one side were anti-abortion campaigners who accused their opponents of murder; on the other abortion rights campaigners who wanted freely available abortions in all states, even deeply conservative ones, however much it upset their fellow citizens.

Norma McCorvey (left), known as ‘Jane Roe’, challenged Texas laws in 1969 and in 1973 the US Supreme Court ruled in her favour – which legalised terminations across America

The landmark decision, Roe v Wade, settled the law for a generation, but it did nothing to settle the turmoil in the hearts and minds of Americans. And now that turmoil has exploded into life again.

The first impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment will be that around 20 states will ban all or almost all abortions.

Mississippi is leading the way; others will follow. And if you think people will just pop across to the neighbouring state for an abortion, think again. America is huge. It can take all day to drive across Texas.

That’s if you have a car. Or a place to stay. Because not only is America huge but many Americans are very poor. They cannot travel from state to state in search of abortion services.

Fewer people, particularly poorer people, will get abortions. Including those whose lives are in danger. Who are victims of incest or rape. And there is a racial element: campaigners say black mothers are four times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

But that is not the only impact of the end of Roe v Wade. It is possible that this Supreme Court has finally done what Joe Biden could never do: unite socially liberal America in a fight to the death. It is, for those Americans still in the centre ground, a terrifying prospect. Because the critics of the Supreme Court are talking about doing things that will change the fundamental set-up of America.

They will win everything or lose everything, and in doing so the foundations of the whole nation will shake.

What liberal Americans say is that the Supreme Court decision is illegitimate and cannot be allowed to stand. On the face of it, this is odd.

Former President Donald Trump appointed three justices to the US Supreme Court, which has the power to overturn the Roe v Wade decision 

Before he was elected in 2016, Donald Trump could not have been clearer about what he intended to do: he was going to appoint people to the court who would abolish Roe v Wade. And Mr Trump was elected and three Justices were approved by the Senate. That is the system.

But what the Left say is that Donald Trump was elected having failed to win a majority of American votes. Which is true. They add that the Senate which confirmed the three new Trump-appointed Justices was itself elected by a minority of Americans. This is because the Republican majority in the Senate depends on small rural states — each state has two Senators — where not many people live. Never in U.S. history has this been the case before: a president elected without a majority and his Supreme Court nominees confirmed by senators who themselves had been voted in by fewer than half of the electorate.

That is the system, but is it democracy? Here is where it gets dangerous. There are Left-wing voices saying it is not democracy and the only way to right the system is to change it — or, in effect, destroy it. First: by packing the Supreme Court with Left-leaning Justices.

Nothing in the constitution says how many Justices there need to be. At the moment it’s nine, but how about appointing another ten? It would cause the mother of all constitutional crises, but it could happen.

And why leave it there? If the Senate represents small rural states too much, just rearrange that body, too. Rebalance it in favour of big cities and liberal values.

And while you are at it, how about getting rid of the electoral college that chooses the president and allowed Trump to win?

No Republican has won the popular vote since George W. Bush in 2004. Before him it was his father in 1988. So, the argument goes, get rid of this device that does the Left so much harm.

What I am describing would be little short of a second revolution. It has been talked about for years.

The risk for America is that these moves really could be made now and not in quiet deliberation, but in anger and haste.

Will Trump supporters accept them? Of course not. In the next presidential election abortion will be on the ballot. That’s divisive enough.

But added to that will be the fundamental issue of how the nation is governed: something that defines what America actually is.

They fought a civil war about that once. And today, there is a real fear that another one is on the way.

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