On 22 January 1973 the US Supreme Court overturned all state laws against abortion in a judgment known as Roe v. Wade. On 24 June 2022 the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a judgment known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This latter judgment did not outlaw abortion, but sent it back to the states for legislation. It is worth remembering that in between these two dates there were some 63 million unborn babies in the USA who lost their lives through abortion.

            In the months that followed the Dobbs judgment, the media were flooded with articles and comments, and the New York Times was particularly vocal. It made claim after claim, many bordering on hysteria. The Dobbs decision was said to have been driven by religious doctrine, not the constitution, and that women had becomes refugees in their home states (23 July). On 30 July we were told that states with abortion bans are among the least supportive for mothers and children. The result was ‘chaos and confusion’ (13 August) or ‘post-Roe chaos’ (2 July). Other ‘rights’ – those associated with homosexual and transgender bodies – were now under threat (23 July). The sky is falling, for when Brazil banned abortion pills, women turned to drug traffickers for their supplies (30 June).

            Extreme cases do not figure much in the 63 million babies who have perished, but they were often raised by the NYT. The dignity of the disabled and the right to choose were pronounced to be two separate issues (1 August). Concerns were raised about the life of the mother, and what defines a medical emergency (21 July). One woman thought that a defective fetus threatened her life, and cried out: ‘They’re just going to let me die’ (2 August). A woman carrying a baby with a rare and fatal illness was said to be doing so just to bury the infant (20 August). The political Right was making women who miscarry suffer (18 & 19 July) with its war on sex (3 July) and ‘a return of sexual servitude for women’ (27 June).

            The issue was said to be one of power (27 June) and freedom (29 July), which were under assault from ‘the terrible triumph of the anti-abortion movement’ (28 July). The judgment was ‘an insult to women and the judicial system’ (25 June) as ‘an out-of-control court sends women back to the Dark Ages’ (26 June). However, ‘the fight has just begun’ (26 June), although one woman voiced a different coping mechanism for the grief of the Dobbs judgment: ‘Please laugh about my abortion with me’ (14 July).

            Occasionally the argument was framed in more economic terms. Indiana employers asserted that the law would impede their ability to attract and retain top talent (8 August). States with abortion bans risk losing their economic edge (12 July). Texas families were said to be left impoverished by the war against abortion (2 July).

            Echoes of the slave trade and of Prohibition are not far away. One heading is ‘From Mexico to the US, an Underground Abortion Pill Network’ (16 July). However, as Prohibition did not last fourteen years, we can be assured that abortion bans will not even last that long (12 July). The three issues are interconnected, for, we are told that abortion, like Prohibition, has a clear racial dimension (4 July). Obviously.

            The rape of a ten-year-old girl in Ohio was apparently followed by an abortion in neighbouring Indiana. This was ‘the predictable result of an abortion ban’ (15 July). Indeed, over 1,000 girls under fifteen seek abortions every year (17 July). One woman wrote: ‘My abortion at 11 wasn’t a choice. It was my life’ (19 August). The case was not life-threatening; what was meant was that the woman’s life would be ruined.

From 1872 to 1929 the editor of the Manchester Guardian was C. P. Scott. One of his claims to fame was his declaration In 1921 that ‘Comment is free, but facts are sacred.’ The Manchester Guardian of his day did not always live up to its own philosophy, but the modern New York Times has reversed it. It is somewhat free and easy with the facts, but its agenda is accounted sacred.

– Peter Barnes