Legal historian Mary Ziegler (Butler, Montana, 1982) is one of the most heard voices in the United States in the abortion debate.
Author of four reference books on the legal, political and social consequences of the Supreme Court ruling
Roe v. Wade,
which in 1973 gave constitutional status to the protection of that right, she published the fifth,
Dollars for Life
(Yale University Press), a couple of days before the high court overturned that ruling on June 24 last.
The new essay offers an original approach to an issue that, perhaps more than any other, polarizes American society, looking for the first time at the points of connection between the financing of electoral campaigns and attacks on the reproductive freedom of women. women.
To write it, this professor at the University of California at Davis dives into files, accounting entries and legal documents to stop at a Supreme Court ruling that is not
Roe v. Wade.
It's not even
Planned Parenthood v. Casey,
the anti-abortion movement's first serious attempt in 1992 to strike down women's right to decide in the Supreme Court (five of the nine justices, three of them conservatives, voted to uphold that right) .
Ziegler puts the spotlight on the
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling,
a controversial decision that lifted restrictions on campaign financing in 2010 and allowed companies and other external groups to spend unlimitedly to support this candidate or the opposite.
It is what is known as
Historian Mary Ziegler. FSU College of Law
The author concludes that this allowed the anti-abortion movement to flood funds and in a way hijack the Republican Party.
"They destroyed their traditional hierarchy," she writes.
And that is how they paved the way for the emergence of unscrupulous populist leaders, such as Donald Trump, as long as they fulfilled their objectives: "place judges in the Supreme Court willing to criminalize abortion."
Trump, without a doubt, more than fulfilled his promises, despite the fact that initially "anti-abortion leaders distrusted him and asked for his vote for other candidates, because in the past he had been in favor of women's right to decide," Ziegeler recalls. in a telephone interview.
“[The tycoon] changed his mind on the fly.
In that, he too was a pitiful opportunist.”
“The American anti-abortion movement contributed much more to the rise of Donald Trump and the transformation of the Republican Party than we usually think,”
Dollars for Life can read.
“Scholars have traced how rising Christian nationalism was key to Trump overtaking Hillary Clinton in 2016. But the influence of the anti-abortion movement was much larger, and it had everything to do with how money influences American politics. ”.
In just four years in the White House, Trump managed, with the fury of the convert, to place three of the nine judges that make up the high court, which he left, in his chaotic passage, unbalanced: now there are six conservative magistrates for three liberals, a composition that will define American life for decades (terms are for life, and newcomers have done so in their fifties).
All three landed there, despite saying otherwise at their confirmation hearings, with the express conviction of overturning the half-century precedent of
Roe vs. Wade.
, the anti-abortion movement focused on the patient strategy of deregulating electoral spending in the country.
Before the funding rules changed," Ziegler explains, "the Republican
managed to kick the most extreme candidates out of the race with money they could control."
Candidates like Pat Buchanan, who launched himself, with aggressive rhetoric that was certainly prophetic, to obtain a presidential candidacy in 1992 and 1996. Dismissed as a buffoon and seen as a threat by his own, both races were lost in the primaries against two Republicans from pedigree like George Bush Jr. and Bob Dole.
“Without the Citizens United
someone like Trump would never have succeeded in American politics.
They pushed Trump in his rise to power, ”concludes the author.
In the book, Ziegler tells a story of mutual advantage, in which one party, the anti-abortionists, have ended up getting a bigger cut than the other, the Republicans, who were not always “the pro-life party” that they are now.
For Richard Nixon, this was never an issue that kept him up at night.
And several of the most famous Republican governors of the
era passed permissive legislation in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Among them: future Vice Presidents Spiro Agnew (Maryland) and Nelson Rockefeller (New York), as well as President Ronald Reagan (California), who would later regret that signature.
When he ran for the White House he did so with a campaign in favor of banning abortion except in exceptional cases.
“The Republicans were happy to attract voters among the anti-abortion ranks, but for them the issue was not a priority.
What's more, for a time they thought that this could alienate the undecided, and they did not bother to change the composition of the Supreme Court to include more magistrates contrary to that right”, says Ziegler.
Those preventions have long since been history.
It is not yet clear what effect the latest decisions of the Supreme Court will have on the legislative elections next November (in addition to reproductive health, they have issued regressive rulings on the use of weapons in public spaces, the separation between Church and State or the struggle against climate change).
The Democrats hope to mobilize their electorate and win over the undecided, while the Republicans appear to have thrown off the mask entirely.
"Today it's a little hard to know which is the real Republican Party," Ziegler says.
“Whatever it is, it seems clear that they are not going to stop at
Roe v. Wade
they want to criminalize abortion throughout the country.
Roe vs. Wade
It is the beginning, not the end.”
James Bopp Jr., before the Supreme Court, on October 8, 2013. Drew Angerer (Getty Images)
The central character of the book is the fascinating James Bopp Jr., "one of the most prominent lawyers of the anti-abortion movement" and one of those sinister characters who pull the strings of American democracy from the third or fourth row of history.
He was an Indiana deputy attorney general for 24 years when the Supreme Court ruled
Roe v. Wade,
and he has worked aggressively to overturn it ever since.
It was he who established the connection between the change in campaign finance rules and the composition of the Supreme Court.
He also knew how to see in the unlikely candidate Trump, then unpopular and cornered by the Republican
, the perfect vehicle to achieve the objectives for which his people have been working tenaciously and stealthily for decades.
“He has pursued a master plan for 49 years.
I think that for him politics, control of the party, has always been more important than abortion.
He is a consummate strategist, someone who really enjoys the game of politics and the maneuvering it takes to win.”
Consequently, he is not a person who likes to lose.
When Joe Biden, who, Ziegler warns, raised “more foreign money in that campaign” than his opponent, beat Trump in the November 2020 election, Bopp was one of the earliest and most ardent supporters of the theory, which was proven baseless, that the Democrats committed massive fraud to alter the outcome of those elections.
He even put four lawsuits in swing states.
Demands that he ended up withdrawing.
He never explained the reasons that led him to do so.
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