Used to be maybe States’ Rights made some sense? Way back in the way back before there were trains, planes and automobiles. Before there was TV even, not to mention the Internet. Way back in the Once Upon a Time when no one knew everybody else’s business and even if they did there didn’t seem to be much they could do about it. Way back then, each State had qualities and laws that seemed to be unique to each one. One state grew cotton, another grew corn. One state mined coal, another mined forests. More to the point, each state almost had their own language. A Maine lobsterman and a Louisiana shrimper could have trouble understanding each other. And it would be unusual for either of them to care much about what was happening halfway between them in Washington, DC. It was their own state laws, taxes, and folkways that mattered to them.
After all, in the formation of the Nation, it was the States that had come first. Each one settled individually as a gift of the crown of England or settled and staked out as separate colonies of the same. Travel was at the speed of a horse or, if lucky, of the current of a river. Communication had to be written on paper that was scarce as hen’s teeth in the back country and sent with a carrier that happened to be passing your way.
It was the States who battled tooth and nail for their individual interests to be protected within the Constitution of the United States. It was the States who came up with the notion of nullification, the right of any state to refuse to obey a federal law in favor of their own individual constitutions. It was the States who feared losing their right to hold people in bondage who felt perfectly secure in their right to secede.
States’ Rights were a big thing in the good old days. But I don’t believe they can get away with proclaiming their right to do their own thing the way they used to anymore. What is legal in Los Angeles may not be legal in Mississippi, but if Mississippi wants to do business in California, it may have to find a work-around. Take the recent Supreme Court Dobbs decision which purports to shut down Roe vs. Wade.
Planes, trains and automobiles. Already corporations are offering to fly female employees needing abortions to states where the procedure is sanctioned. Many other women will be inconvenienced but able to travel for the services they need. There are still more women without those means who may be able to reach out to friends – even the internet – for help in getting from Tennessee to Illinois. And States’ Rights will mean jack-all to those looking for one of the many ways of noncompliance.
Speaking of the internet. There have already been stories about the ways in which pregnant women can come to harm if not afforded an immediate abortion, and as these surface from real life they will arouse anger against the laws that did so much harm. We will hear these stories, because we are no longer dependent on the limited circulation of small town newspapers and because victims and their families are seldom silent. Pregnancy out of wedlock is no longer the social disgrace it once was. Women are no longer ashamed to speak of intimate women’s issues. We are ourselves creatures of desire. We choose our mates badly. We bleed. We miscarry. We want careers. Perhaps we want children.
And we whisper these stories on silent keyboards that carry our words into the night so that the world may know that we are in pain and that our State has the Right to deny us the remedy. The remedy for a rape. For incest. For a wanted pregnancy gone horribly wrong. For our very lives.
So that if the solution brought by planes, trains and automobiles is out of reach, at least the State cannot conceal the misery they have brought upon us and can be shown that this Right they do not have.
I could be wrong about all of this, of course. But I don’t think so right now. So many more freedoms would have to be curtailed – speech, travel, protest, to name just a few. Already there are folks volunteering to take others across state lines. There could be an underground of medications, possibly even safe procedures. We are an ingenious people when it comes right down to it.
And when you get right down to it, the rights that the people claim for themselves are gonna trump States’ Rights any day.