Opinions published in The Markaz Review reflect the perspective of their authors and do not necessarily represent TMR.
I. Rida Mahmood
On a mid-spring day of 2010, Jordanians woke up to the harrowing news of a 45-year-old man who bled his 19-year-old pregnant daughter to death while attempting to perform a surgical abortion on her. The man, who had cultivated his medical expertise overnight using a Google search, was also the father of the aborted fetus.
I was on a family visit to Amman at the time. My father, doing the dishes, told the story to me and my mother, as the two of us sat at the kitchen table.
Disdainfully — and, naively, in retrospect — I said, “This would never happen in Amreeka.” I rolled my eyes and went on, “The girl would’ve gotten herself a safe abortion and reported her father to the police. Women’s rights are protected in Amreeka.”
Amreeka is, of course, the colloquial Arabic term for America, my beloved home to which I returned two months later.
America’s Freedom Hinges on the Survival of its Democracy
Fast forward 12 years: American women of childbearing age could face the same fate as that Jordanian teen, thanks to several conservative, unelected justices.
For decades, conservative American politicians and commentators have cited, often in a dystopian fashion, the “encroachment of Sharia law” into our state courts as the opening remarks to their racist, anti-immigrant advocacy (a baseless claim, but that is a story for another day). Yet the revelations from Politico on May 2, 2022, disclosing the Supreme Court’s opinion on a reversal of Roe v. Wade, are yet further proof that the greatest threat currently facing American freedom is not a doe-eyed longbeard in a headdress, a thobe, and a pair of flipflops.
Liberty-worshipping conservatives would never allow a sharia-abiding immigrant to try and treat American women as the chattel property of men; subjugated, objectified, and hidden away from public life; as mere vessels to carry and deliver the fruits of men’s seeds.
Subjugating American women is another job that good old conservatives do not want to outsource to immigrants.
Sharia-phobic conservatives, while donning their favorite superhero capes and flying to rescue Afghan and Iraqi women from religious authoritarianism, have been working diligently to formulate and promote homemade policies that are equally authoritarian, misogynistic, and intrusive, with unmistakable religious underpinnings. The leaked US Supreme Court’s initial draft majority opinion targets American women in a way that would thrill the ghosts of Mullah Omar and Ayatollah Khomeini.
The prospective tyranny of our unelected officials will hardly stop at abortion rights…
The US Supreme Court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention in recent months. Just last December, while hearing oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, our own Aunt Lydia, aka Justice Amy Coney Barrett, referenced “safe haven” laws as an alternative to abortion. Instead of ending a pregnancy, she suggested, a woman should carry the fetus to full term, deliver it, and leave it at a public place without facing legal consequences — as if giving up a child for adoption by unknown strangers carries the same trauma as having a safe abortion; as if having a low-cost or no-cost safe delivery is easily attainable. The list of “as ifs” goes on and on.
Not only did these remarks betray her lies to the US Senate at her confirmation in 2020, but they also revealed Barrett’s deep-seated dismissive attitude toward the whole concept of women’s right to autonomy over our own bodies — an attitude shared with the other conservative justices on the Supreme Court, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas.
An attitude at the core of the patriarchy found in abundance within theocracies around the world.
Speaking of a theocracy taking hold in America might seem laughable at first glance. Upon further inspection, however, the possibility is not all that farfetched. In the aftermath of the leak, Justice Thomas seems to be more concerned with the public’s respect of the institution than with the draft’s contents. Within the draft itself, Justice Alito revealed his disregard for public opinion when he wrote “we cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public’s reaction to our work.” According to Alito, for a civil right to be valid, it must be “deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions.” In his attempt to make a strong case for said “traditions,” Alito made multiple references to Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th century judge who presided over witchcraft trials and distrusted women’s claims of rape, spousal and otherwise.
The document reeks of conservatives’ infamous nostalgia for the good old days, when women “knew their place,” when women’s bodies were the property of the state, and reproductive rights for women were a form of heresy.
The prospective tyranny of our unelected officials will hardly stop at abortion rights; it will immediately expand into limiting access to contraceptives — another favorite of the religious right — and later onto other civil rights that women activists obtained after centuries of hard work. Uncertainty is already looming on the horizon about the future of procedures such as IVF treatments.
Perhaps this was a much needed wake-up call to remind us all that, while women’s bodies are still a battlefield, the fight for women’s rights in Amreeka is far from over.