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Opinion: How one ruling on abortion means so much to so many different people

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, May 14, 2022. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

There’s a saying among climate scientists and activists that has a sort of “always look on the bright side of life” darkness to it, with a sunny spin: As miserable and dry and hot as this summer will be, enjoy it, because it’ll be one of the coldest summers of the rest of your life. We can say something similar for abortion rights and personal freedom in this country: Enjoy the next month or so, because it’ll be the freest we are for generations to come.

How we experience these declining freedoms of course differs considerably depending on our station in life. Take me, a middle-class, middle-aged, middle-everything white male who’s done having children: The Supreme Court’s likely overturning of Roe vs. Wade next month won’t impact me materially beyond effecting extreme distress for my fellow Americans seeking access to the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare. There are people who can get pregnant but do not want to be, and who live in states that would ban abortion the moment a decision from the court allows them to — they, obviously, face profoundly different lives.

Then there are those at the intersection of so many realities in this country, with much more to lose under the watch of a Supreme Court disinclined to protect their rights. Columnist Jean Guerrero identified Latinos in particular as an extremely vulnerable group — think of undocumented women already wary of internal immigration checkpoints who will surely not have the option of crossing state lines for abortion, the children of immigrants targeted by Republican leaders unrestricted by a far-right court, and the LGBTQ people (as Guerrero notes, Latinos are the least likely millennial group to identify as heterosexual) worried that the same reasoning used in the leaked draft opinion overturning Roe will soon be applied to the 2015 Obergefell ruling that recognized a constitutional right to gay marriage. Guerrero encourages President Biden to recognize the exceptional threats against Latinos and use his executive powers to protect immigrants, barring any action by Congress.

Guerrero’s column on the court’s impending ruling is worth highlighting because of the highly personal nature of abortion rights — in other words, on something like this, people often have a difficult time understanding something that they cannot experience themselves. This is especially true for those disingenuously reassuring people that they could still get an abortion in another jurisdiction with fewer reproductive restrictions, since all the court will do is return the matter to states. I’ve read these arguments in, among other places, letters from readers who think this is all much ado about nothing, since abortion will always be legal somewhere in America.

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To which I say: Well, why not let cities and counties set their own abortion laws? How far are we willing to restrict the rights of people based on where they live? (Maybe don’t answer that, because we’ve seen what happens with things like local election boards and county sheriffs.) This gets to the heart of why the Constitution confers personal rights to individuals in this country, not subject to the whims of leaders who fail to see why people need them. And if you don’t understand how the Supreme Court revoking the right to an abortion means a lot of things to a lot of different people — and how the best option is simply to leave Roe in place and enforce it — then read Guerrero’s column.

Conservative Christians will regret overturning Roe. Sheila Briggs, a religion and gender scholar at USC who is on the board of Catholics for Choice, warns that Catholic bishops in particular are blundering on abortion: “Ordinary Catholics feel condemned for their views and for the decisions that they and their families make around abortion, same-sex marriage and even contraception, coverage for which the U.S. Catholic bishops sought to exclude from the Affordable Care Act. Time and time again, the bishops have fought against women having control over their own bodies. It is therefore not surprising that the pews at Sunday Mass are emptying.” L.A. Times

Abortion rights activists are targeting Supreme Court justices’ homes. Fine. It’s hard to get worked up over demonstrations outside the homes of conservative justices over abortion considering the history of deadly violence by anti-choice extremists, writes columnist Robin Abcarian: “In 1986, the clinic of abortion doctor George Tiller was firebombed. In 1993, an antiabortion protester shot Tiller in both arms as he drove to work. In 2009, he was murdered by a religious extremist in the vestibule of his church. I would remind you, too, that over the last 45 years, according to the National Abortion Federation, there have been 10 other murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 194 incidents of arson and thousands of other ‘incidents of criminal activities’ directed at abortion providers, their staffs and clinic escorts.” L.A. Times

This drought has so evaporated my sense of “normal,” that when I look at the official government map delineating the parts of California that are catastrophically dry from those that are merely not wet enough, my reaction is, “Hey, not actually that bad!” I am reminded of the permanent altered state of reality mentioned in one of the best commentaries in recent memory on the drought, The Times Editorial Board’s own 2021 piece, “There is no drought.” What there is instead is year-round fire danger, as seen by the blaze affecting Laguna Niguel in (checks calendar) mid-May. We in California have made adjustments to prolonged dryness before, most notably in Los Angeles, which added more than 1 million new residents since 1970 without increasing its water use. For the rest of the state, however, it appears that our capacity for cutting back has reached its limit, so maybe we should cram as many of us as we can in that tiny corner in the far northwest of California listed by the U.S. Drought Monitor as merely “abnormally dry.”

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Veterinarians are in a suicide and financial crisis. Your pets are paying for it. Dr. Karen Halligan wrote us a heartbreaking letter on the economic and emotional burdens bringing down vets today, causing many to go out of business or even commit suicide. She took part in our “Hear Me Out” series, allowing us to shadow her at her clinic for a powerful video. She writes: “Vets take an oath upon graduation to use our scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of livestock resources, the promotion of public health and the advancement of medical knowledge. Unfortunately, profit-seeking is bringing down the profession. And in the end, it’s the animals who suffer.” L.A. Times

If Rick Caruso becomes mayor, will Los Angeles be all dancing fountains and trolley rides? Columnist Nicholas Goldberg thinks the billionaire front-runner in the race to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti is selling a problem-free vision of Los Angeles based more on his successful outdoor shopping malls than reality: “None of this means that Caruso couldn’t be a competent mayor or that he doesn’t have the best intentions for the city, although I didn’t find much to love in his recent endorsement interview with The Times. (I also object to a billionaire jumping late into the race and buying support by drastically outspending his rivals.) My point is this: To the extent that there’s a subliminal message that if you elect Caruso, you’ll get the Grove, be skeptical. It ain’t gonna happen. And you wouldn’t want it to. The Grove is fine for three hours, including a Caruso salad. But it’s not Los Angeles.” L.A. Times

We have more endorsements. Mostrecently, the editorial board recommended Dulce Vasquez for Los Angeles City Council District 9, Hydee Feldstein Soto for L.A. city attorney and Tina McKinnor for state Assembly. Notable endorsements for the upcoming June 7 primary also include Karen Bass for mayor, Kenneth Mejia for city controller and Robert Luna for Los Angeles County sheriff. For the complete list of recommendations so far, visit latimes.com/endorsements.

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