Roe wasn’t the first attempt to nationalize complex legal issues after long battles.
Remember the catchy Sammy Hagar song “I Can’t Drive 55“? Inspired by the true story of Hagar getting pulled over in 1984 for going only 62 mph in a 55-mph zone, it refers to the National Maximum Speed Law passed by Congress in 1973. His song was popularized by the collective anger at the law.
The year was 1973. Oil crisis sent gasoline prices to new heights. The National Maximum Speed Law was the only thing Congress could do. The law was intended to decrease gasoline consumption by approximately 2 percent. This would have been a small relief at the pumps. The law did not achieve this modest goal. It only reduced gasoline consumption by half of one percent.
After this truth was revealed, another argument emerged claiming that reduced speed laws had saved lives. This argument was also dubious. It’s not surprising that the law was not repealed sooner. This is because it increased the local government coffers through speeding tickets. This was taxation through citation. Governments don’t like to eliminate taxes. The controversial law was not repealed by Congress until 1995.
The primary result of the repeal was that decision-making power returned to states where it had been before the law passed. Speed limit laws that seem reasonable in high-density Rhode Island might not apply to those living in West Texas, where the interstate roads are straight and wide, the visibility is 10 miles, and few vehicles are traveling at any given time. Speed limits can be a problem in each area. It is not possible to apply a “one-size fits all” strategy.
Did the national speed limit increase after the law was repealed? By no means. With exceptions on rural roads, the maximum speed on an urban interstate in Rhode Island and ten other states remains at 55 miles per hour.
What does all this have to do about abortion? It turns out, 1973 oversaw more than one legal debacle; Roe v. Wade was also decided that year. The federal government took over an issue that was previously within the jurisdiction of the individual states, just like the National Speed Limit Law. Polarization was created by this nationalization. The thing was also undemocratic. The Supreme Court intervened and established a legal precedent national without the need for a vote.
Curiously, Roe supporters have managed to market abortion to the masses both as a nationwide issue and also maintain that it’s a local problem. Pro-lifers argue that abortion is between the woman and her doctor. That’s as close as you can get. Yet pro-abortion activists are enraged because the repeal of Roe eliminates their centralized federal operation, forcing them to fight on 50 fronts. They protest that nine men in black robes should never decide what’s right for a woman–but that is exactly the state of affairs they have enjoyed since 1973.
So, after nearly 50 years, Roe has been overturned. What does this mean? Not surprisingly, recent surveys have shown that most Americans are aware Roe concerns abortion. But they don’t know how its repeal would affect them. The repeal of Roe is being portrayed by abortion supporters as a way to ban all forms of abortion from the United States. It is true that its repeal like the National Speed Limit Law merely gives decision-making power to people elected representatives in particular the states, which is the level where such cases have been historically resolved.
Like the National Speed Limit Law Roe wasn’t repealed sooner because it was profitable. For example, Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, is one of the most lucrative “non-profits” in our country, with over one billion dollars in revenue and seven-figure executive compensation packages. Campaigns and advocacy groups have linked their wealthy donors and government funding to abortion causes. Similar to the speed limit, there have been systematic politicalization and nationalizations of local issues, driven largely by financial gain.
How do they differ in legal terms? Pay attention to the money. National upheaval was not caused by the repeal of the National Maximum Speed Limit law. The profit centers for the business were local governments. Contrary to this, major funding sources for abortion are mostly at the national level.
Get weekly emails in your inbox
Case in point, federal funding is allocated to Planned Parenthood through direct grants as well as service contracts. Grant and contract recipients, including Planned Parenthood, are allowed to contribute to federal campaigns. They can also recommend or even present pro-abortion candidates to wealthy donors. Many of these organizations are connected to news outlets which consequently show preferential coverage of pro-abortion politicians. These drivers will ensure that abortion remains a major national topic for the future. Abortion advocates hope to revive their base after the Dobbs leaked in May. They plan on sustaining the “Summer of Rage” through November’s elections.
Abortion’s staunch supporters can depend on Biden’s executive orders, regardless of election results. They will try to make cases that can be brought to the federal lower courts, with a focus on circuits populated by activist and abortion-minded judges. Abortion advocates will lobby for federal legislation to maintain the nationalization of the matter if they are able to hold Congress.
Sammy was fully vindicated in 1995 when the National Speed Limit was repealed. The overturning Roe . was not a satisfying moment for pro-lifers. Although it is an important milestone, there are still many legal challenges ahead.