Soon after the news broke that Roe v. Wade had been overturned, The New Republic published an article entitled: “The Fight for Abortion Rights Must Break the Law to Win.” The choice of whether or not to break the law is a heavy burden, but it is understandable. At the moment, outrage is widespread and so is the desire to turn it into a weapon. Consensus is likely to be drowned out by the general fury.
In my youth, I marched, spoke and wrote a great deal about abortion rights. I believe that it is wrong to reduce the issue down to a law that bans this delicate and tragic right that has been the object of decades of feminist struggle. Abortion was inevitable then and remains so today. When a woman reaches the terrible decision to abort due to abuse, age, illness or poverty, it is unjust to quash her will with a law that violates her right to control her own body and her future in a democratic society.
Certainly, there are reasonable arguments on the other side, including that the Court’s ruling in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey may have crossed into immoral territory by suggesting that abortion is permissible up to the seventh month of pregnancy. The limits to the choice of abortion are not written in stone, but they are a sensitive issue, and they should be decided by common sense and moral strength rather than outrage.
Unfortunately, common sense and moral strength have given way to that outrage. In particular, the firestorm of debate in recent days has become about delegitimizing the “deplorable” conservative side of the argument. The line taken by indignant newspapers across the U.S. has been to condemn the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. But conservative justices are not the cause of this upheaval. The decision to overturn Roe was the fiery tip of an ongoing culture war, in which women have often been the first victims. The attempt to delegitimize conservatives does not help end this war. In fact, it only further alienates people, exasperating many moderate conservatives and Republicans, and even some Democrats.
The rush toward the delegitimization of conservatives, which began with the election of Donald Trump and became a tidal wave after the terrible death of George Floyd, has been devastating for American society. In particular, due to a cultural revolution that—at least since the Black Lives Matter riots in 2020—has destroyed streets and businesses, toppled monuments to great American historical figures, upended conditions of employment and education and even targeted cultural institutions like museums and orchestras. In addition, it has terrified parents who are unwilling to embrace radical gender theories and curricula that portray America as a monstrously racist society.
In his new book The War on the West, British political commentator Douglas Murray wrote, “In the cities where Black Lives Matter flags were flown, BLM had become something like the national religion. It was there in the bookstores packed with books telling white Americans how they needed to retrain their minds.”
“Cities that were once proud and beautiful, such as Seattle, were almost entirely boarded up in their centers,” he noted. “Small and large businesses had been almost completely destroyed by months of riots and COVID-19. And those businesses that did remain were not just asking but begging to be left alone—pleading with any potential mob to pass them by.”
“Almost every government building and business in downtown Portland was either closed, boarded up or effectively barricaded against the nightly riots,” Murray said. “Portland had become a ground zero for a portion of the U.S. culture war. … Whenever reporters did go to cover the protests, they were accused of giving succor to the far-right.”
In schools, the accusation of being an unconscious white supremacist has become a nightmare. To oppose it means running the risk of being punished if not expelled. As writer Bari Weiss has revealed, this even led dissident Los Angeles parents to begin meeting secretly on the web. This happened even to those who send their children to Harvard Westlake, the most prestigious private school in the city, where they saw their children shamed, humiliated and indoctrinated.
On the issue of gender, the situation has become even more absurd. Children must now refer to themselves as “they,” and refrain from using masculine or feminine pronouns. Even the gender identity of parents has been erased. You are no longer a “mother” or “father,” you are just a “parent.”
As conservative writer Heather Mac Donald wrote in City Journal, this extremism has even infected the world of classical music. In the name of “diversity,” the very idea of “Western music” is being rejected. Given that Mozart is certainly “Western music,” just as Michelangelo is “Western art,” the implications of this are horrifying.
Indeed, in January 2022, the California Board of Education settled a lawsuit with a group of parents, agreeing to remove instructions related to Aztec chants from the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. The March 2021 instructions called for a “countergenocide” against white Christians and forced students to honor Aztec gods.
Imagine the confusion and rage of those who are seeing all of this imposed by fiat, without consultation with anyone who might dissent. American women who today find themselves deprived of a Constitutional right to abortion are simply the first victims of the furious reaction to this progressive overreach. The delegitimization of conservatives by the gatekeepers of politics and culture has, in many ways, led directly to this outcome. The culture war will continue, but right now, American women are paying for it.
Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies. She served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including Israel Is Us (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.