There has been an underlying political battle in almost every partisan elected office in America for almost five decades — abortion.
Mostly though, the political conversations were disingenuous. Candidates, elected officials, and citizens alike had an important philosophical and political “out.” The hard decision had been made by the US Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe v. Wade. Abortion was a fundamental right of privacy guaranteed by the Constitution. The arguments were around the edges of the framework dictated in Roe, mostly at the state level and historically at the later stages of pregnancy.
Legislation-limited abortion was consistently proposed and rejected in liberal states, and conservative states constantly pushed the threshold of constitutionally dubious laws. Abortion politics played equally between legislatures and lawyers and judges in the courtroom, arguing nuances of the constitutional framework of Roe and later Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guardians? For most Americans’ adult lifetimes, the guardians of that fundamental liberty were five judges on the U.S. Supreme Court. Forty-nine years later, five judges determined that pregnant women were not protected by the fundamental liberty guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Since June of 2022, when the Supreme Court completely overturned Roe and Casey, every candidate and elected official must clearly articulate their position on one of the more difficult, private, and personal times in many women’s (and often the people who love them) lives.
The Colorado landscape regarding abortion has not changed except that now abortion is statutorily guaranteed as Democrats were concerned about the lack of laws guaranteeing abortion should Roe be overturned. A new law signed by the governor this spring guarantees the right to abortion in Colorado. In the near future, expect more abortion-related legislation and dueling statutory and constitutional ballot initiatives.
A few observations and suggestions for Colorado citizens:
Have honest, straightforward conversations with political candidates, elected officials, and each other. It’s no longer theoretical. Your conversation and votes matter. Their answers and votes matter. If elected, they will have a more direct impact on this issue than any time since 1973.
Resist tribal instincts. Most people instinctively know what they generally believe about abortion. They also may modify their views depending on their circumstance and place in life. We know this to be true as these are real people in our lives. Family, friends, neighbors, colleagues.
We’ve talked to our circle of friends directly and in whispers our entire lives. Resist the winner take all, and the other side is evil arguments and conclusions. People of goodwill are on both sides of this debate.
Most people will take “a side” when forced by an election, but in reality, almost everyone has a much more nuanced view of life, privacy, and relationships between people and their government than simply a pro-choice or pro-life side.
Resist vitriol and anger. This used to be in the realm of partisan political fundraisers. It’s often the quickest and most effective way to get someone to donate to the cause. With the loss of trust in many institutions and the rise of social media, our exposure to vitriol and anger from our family and friends is much more frequent. Resist this. Unless creating unease and stress to create an action is in your job description, do your best to avoid mean-spirited, snark, and drama. Everyone you know will appreciate you for it.
Choose to be effective. People do change their minds based on the opinions of people they know, love, and respect. Reach out and gently, lovingly, and persuasively ask them to consider your point of view. Rarely if ever, has someone changed their mind from threats, meanness, and bullying. Don’t engage with any who do so.
An important note. Yes, I’ve written an entire opinion column about abortion and haven’t clearly expressed my opinion. The reason is that no one will change their mind unless you’re already a friend and we respect each other. Most important is that we listen to our family and friends rather than advocate. Hope you’ll join me. Our constitutional republic depends on us doing more of this, more often, more effectively.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who must we trust to protect our lives and our liberty? We must trust each other.
John Brackney is a former elected official, Army Officer, lifelong Coloradoan, and business leader. He hosts a weekly discussion on contemporary public policy with US History Professor Stephen Tootle on Facebook live and posted at youtube and spotify. Contact him at JohnBrackney@msn.com.
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