On the draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade


To the Editor:

When I learned the news of the draft revoking Roe v. Wade, I had to gather my thoughts. I set off with my dog, Kutter, and we walked through the Greenlands, by the State Forest. After hiking an hour, my head was bursting with thoughts and fears about the unintended consequences that may erupt from this rebuke to women across the country.

Let me explain my perspective on this political polemic through the eyes of an historian. Over the past 150-plus years, three dreadful decisions impacted people nationwide. Each decision created an atmosphere which restricted rights on segments of the population.

The Dred Scott v. Sandford decision (1857) denied Blacks the rights of citizenship in the U.S. As slaves, Blacks were considered private property, with no rights. At all. It took the Emancipation Proclamation (1863), the Civil War (1861 – ’65), and passage of the 14th Amendment on July 9, 1868, to grant citizenship to Blacks. 

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) allowed racially distinct public schools to exist, deemed separate but equal. This court ruling upheld the legal segregation of Blacks; it assumed inferiority of Blacks. Plessy was overturned in the Brown v. Board of Education case on May 17, 1954.

The 18th Amendment (1920) prohibited the manufacture, transport, and sale of intoxicating liquors. Actual drinking, however, was still legal. In my forthcoming book, “Martha’s Vineyard in the Roaring 20s,” I write that Prohibition led to the criminalization of rumrunners and even fishermen, lured by the money to be made in bootleg liquor. Prohibition was reversed by passage of the 21st Amendment on Dec. 5, 1933.

Today we have the Alito draft, leaked on May 2, 2022. It denies the right of abortion for all women under all circumstances: rape, incest, health of mother, desire not to be pregnant. If approved in the final ruling, this case will have the unintended consequences of unsafe abortions, mothers’ deaths, women left to carry their fetus to term regardless, and unwanted children.

It is a damning step backward. 

Friends and family who have had abortions found it was the surest way to ensure they lived their lives, and the lives of their families, to the highest degree possible. Denying that right destroys the option of when to have children. It makes women second-class citizens.

Denying a woman the right to control her own body, limiting her options, is unconscionable. 

Adding insult to the unintended consequences is the Republican effort to reduce the safety net. Poor women need maternity care, childcare, family counseling, as well as food stamps, housing, and education. This draft makes no pretext to deal with unwanted births.

If a woman is forced to bear an unwanted child, how will that impact her life? Her child’s life? Will counseling be approved for forced pregnancies? Will adoption services be expanded? 

Will Republicans offer free birth control?

This will not stand. This cannot stand. Congress must legalize a woman’s right to choose. 

Vineyarders turned out at the Courthouse on Main Street, Edgartown, to protest the draft ruling. It will take more than standing on the steps or a walk in the woods to right this wrong. The fight has just begun.


Thomas Dresser
Oak Bluffs