By Jan Worth-Nelson
In the wake of the leak of a draft opinion suggesting the U.S. Supreme Court is about to overturn Roe v. Wade, some have suggested men should, as the memes go, “STFU,” or “Shut the F–k up.”
But if any area man has a voice worth hearing on the matter, it is Jim Richardson.
Richardson is a life-long community activist who was director of Planned Parenthood of East Central Michigan for 22 years, from 1987 to 2009.
In a recent interview, he called the likelihood that the end of Roe v. Wade guaranteeing a woman’s right to abortion, “phenomenal” and “a major wakeup call.”
The draft, confirmed to be authentic by Chief Justice John Roberts and written by Justice Samuel Alito, appears to completely overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision, which for 49 years has constitutionally assured a woman’s right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy throughout the first trimester. It would make all abortions illegal, including in the case of rape or incest.
Richardson is angry.
“I’ve been doing a slow burn for years,” in the face of ceaseless efforts to overturn a women’s right to choose, he said. The latest development further ignites his ire.
“It just makes me mad,” he said, noting that it brings to the forefront painful issues of what he sees as powerful men’s persistent attempts to control women.
If in fact the draft turns out to be the final decision, Richardson said, “It will nullify what we thought was settled law for the United States, which is, I think, phenomenal — that the courts would erase so many years of law that has protected women’s ability to choose.”
Richardson, now 81, has devoted a lifetime to assuring those rights.
“I have always supported that it is a woman’s right to choose, and I’ve always been very supportive of women making decisions about their bodily integrity. As a man, I have no business trying to even think about what is best for a woman. But apparently a whole lot of men think that they do. I vehemently disagree with them.
“This has always seemed to be an issue of power,” Richardson continued, “The power men have over women, and of men threatened by women being able to make their own decisions. This is at the root of all of it, that women are the property of men, and getting into religious views that women are expected to do the bidding of men.
“That’s all nonsense,” he declared.
And in light of that, he asserted, “It’s important that we view this event as a major wake up call , especially for younger voters — those who are at largest risk as a result of this action,.”
What would be lost, he bluntly states, is “Freedom. What would be lost is an ability to have bodily integrity.”
He’s also concerned this decision would set the table for overturning other issues of personal freedom, such as contraception and birth control, marriage and civil rights.
Speaking from the perspective of years at Planned Parenthood, often in the nexus of abortion rights fights, Richardson said he is not surprised by what seems to be happening.
For decades, he notes, “anti-choice organization and individuals have been trying to set up cases to directly challenge Roe — they’ve been doing it for years. The long-term political game that has been played has connected the Republican Party to an anti-choice position, and to continue a political push to assure that it was anti-choice.”
He recalls when a Kalamazoo clinic was bombed, and when physicians providing abortion services were killed.
Things moved faster, following the election of Donald Trump and the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Richardson noted.
In that regard, “It’s clear that elections matter. It’s clear that we cannot sit out elections. We have to get off the sidelines and work. That is absolutely, critically important, particularly if you are a younger, newer voter, who has the most to lose.
Richardson offered several option for those hoping to defend the right to choose:
— “Folks gotta vote,” he said. “We can’t sit out the midterms.
— “It’s important to get behind candidates who support your position,” he said. “If you can’t get out and work for them, send them money.
— A petition is being circulated to bring to the voters of Michigan a referendum to assure abortion rights in Michigan.
He said with the Republican-controlled legislature in power in Lansing, it is likely if Roe is overturned it is likely the state will quickly reinstate a 1931 law banning abortion and put into effect restrictions much like the “vigilante”-based law newly passed in Texas.
EVM Consulting Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.