There is a paragraph in which Alito denies that the logic of his opinion applies to these other rights. “None of the other decisions cited by Roe and Casey involved the critical moral question posed by abortion,” he writes. “They do not support the right to obtain an abortion, and by the same token, our conclusion that the Constitution does not confer such a right does not undermine them in any way.”
But Alito neither explains nor tries to substantiate this point. It’s an aside, a throwaway line — a “to be sure” meant to cover an obvious weak point. And given his own hostility to the Obergefell ruling where he stated, in his dissent, that “it is beyond dispute that the right to same-sex marriage is not among those rights” that are “deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition” — there’s no reason to take him at his word.
Which brings us to the logic of the political movement that brought us to this point. Those of us outside the conservative movement and the religious right tend to think of them in terms of what they’re against, but it is helpful here to think in terms of what they want. Judging from their priorities, as well as their leaders and intellectuals, these movements want a hierarchical society of traditional morality and patriarchal family structure, where male-led households are disciplined by an unrestrained free market. A national ban on abortion — which, if Republican lawmakers are any indication, is where much of the movement will go after the court overturns Roe — is part and parcel of that vision.
Justice Alito may sincerely believe that his draft opinion has no bearing on same-sex marriage, sexual autonomy or contraception. But to the movement that placed him and his fellow travelers on the Supreme Court, those freedoms also undermine the society it hopes to build. They, like legal abortion, allow for the social equality of women and sexual minorities. They, like legal abortion, must also be on the chopping block.
The Supreme Court may never move against same-sex marriage, sexual autonomy or contraception, but states led by ultraconservative Republican lawmakers just might. Last week, a leading Republican in the Idaho Legislature said he would considering hearings on legislation banning morning-after pills. And on Sunday, Tate Reeves, the governor of Mississippi, refused to rule out the possibility that his state would outlaw certain forms of contraception if Roe v. Wade is overturned. States have already begun to crack down on access to abortion pills, and lawmakers in several states have been talking about legislation that would restrict residents from traveling across state lines to obtain an abortion. There is every reason to think that these laws and proposals are only the beginning.
No one wages a generational battle to reshape American society for the sake of a partial victory. And for the reactionaries at the helm of the conservative movement, the end of Roe v. Wade is exactly that — a partial victory.