A week in America | 6 May 2022

As the Roe Vs Wade debate rages in America, Martin Liptrot looks at how it isn't really the United States of America.

Martin Liptrot

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America is a dangerous place.

You already knew that of course, and the latest statistics for manslaughter and murder rates prove it.

Figures show that in 2020, 12,400 Americans were shot dead and a staggering 4,300 of those were under 18 years of age.

But gun control is too hot a topic even for relatively progressive politicians to tackle. The pro-gun lobby, the gun manufacturers, and 2nd Amendment advocates are well resourced and have bludgeoned people into believing any form of gun control is ‘anti-American’.

That includes any rules to deny known criminals from owning and carrying semi-automatic weapons capable of unleashing a rapid fire of deadly lead. The hoodlums’ weapon of choice – the Glock 18 – can discharge a staggering 1,200 rounds in a minute.

Now, I can’t think of a single legitimate need to deploy that sort of firepower – as President Biden said: “What? Are the deer now wearing Kevlar?”

But as we enter perhaps the most divisive and critical mid-term elections, rest assured, gun control – or the fear of it – will feature high on the agenda.

America is also an increasingly fundamentalist place too.

The managed leak of the Roe vs Wade opinion – rumoured to be the work of a Supreme court judge’s wife – has put another hot button topic on the ballot. Abortion rights.

Roe vs Wade was a Supreme Court ruling which decreed, under the protection of the Federal Government, no woman from Alaska to Alabama, California to Connecticut, should be obstructed from having an abortion.

But the leaked opinion which found its way onto the Politico website this week, suggests the Supreme Court is now looking to reverse that decision and the 50 years of precedent it has created.

While the rights of women – rather than government – to determine what happens with their own bodies is one I think is hard to deny, there are lots of religious groups and fundamentalists who hold a contrary view. Some of those anti-abortion groups have taken extreme action in pursuit of their beliefs, including the murder and shooting of nurses and doctors they believe are involved in providing abortions.

“Take a life to save an unborn life” is their defence. Staggering really.

But this dispute is also about something fundamental to America – states’ rights.

The idea that ‘America’, as we Brits call it, is one place is misguided.

Yes, on the surface, America’s cities and towns look the same: the same fast food chains, same common language and same currency – but the real truth is in the name – The United States of America.

America is a federation of states and where the real power lies is in dispute.

What the reversal of Roe vs Wade signals, beyond removing the Federal protection of women in need of abortion services, is the desire to transfer decision-making on vital and critical matters to each of the 50 states.

No longer would Washington and the White House be the political head and heart of national policymaking, that would be transferred to the Governor’s mansion and state senates to create a patchwork of rules.

Using abortion rights as an example, 23 states have already passed rules which say, if Roe vs Wade is reversed, then abortion will be illegal immediately. A further 13 states have trigger laws ready to launch.

It will probably be no surprise that the states which are most eager to outlaw abortion are also the ones which are fighting hardest to maintain gun rights. They appear happy to throw out one federal protection but cling to another Constitutional amendment with a cold dead hand.

The US has a huge deep red Republican swathe – more of a Fundamental Sash than a Bible Belt. Dodging the liberal coasts and big metropolitan areas, it tumbles down from the Appalachian Mountains of Ohio and West Virginia, through the woods and farms of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, across the plains of Texas and Oklahoma to the Mormon state of Utah and the Badlands of South Dakota.

While the last attempt at sectionalism and secession ended in failure in the Civil War – or the War of Northern Aggression as some slyly still refer to it – you can’t help but think a subtle move to break the ties to the national government is still on the cards for many.

Inspired by Britain’s leap to cast herself free of the yoke of European policymaking, trade agreements and freedom of movement, perhaps we will soon be talking about Texit in the coming months, as one large powerful land mass which believes it is superior to all others looks to detach itself from the commercial dependencies, geographic realities and regulatory protection of all its neighbours.

So, as the primary elections to select candidates for the mid-terms kicks off, we will be listening closely for the dog whistle call of the states’ rights lobby.

Dangerous place America.

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