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It feels like the country is being torn apart.Or, as the Atlantic put it, becoming two nations sharing the same geographic space.I’ve been around long enough to remember the national traumas of Vietnam and Watergate, of 9/11 and Iraq, of four impeachments against three presidents.And yet, after a weekend of nationwide protests, this is different.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Supreme Court awaiting the Dobbs ruling. America is now literally divided–this has moved beyond metaphor–into states where abortion is banned and states where it is legal.
(Joshua Comins/Fox News)The latest era of polarization began with the tumultuous Trump presidency, and deepened during the pandemic, when the question of getting vaccinated split the country into red and blue camps. It deepened further when Donald Trump insisted the 2020 election had been stolen, and with the riot of January 6th – leading to the latest hearings in which Republicans and Trump appointees have described in damaging detail a pressure campaign by the former president to block Joe Biden’s election.TRUMP PRESSURED DOJ ON ELECTION, BUT PANEL’S HEARING IS MAINLY A REHASHThen came the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.America is now literally divided – this has moved beyond metaphor – into states where abortion is banned and states where it is legal.In tossing out the 50-year precedent, the court’s conservative majority shocked the country by going beyond the case at hand – Mississippi outlawing abortion after 15 weeks – to do what the pro-life movement has been fighting for since 1973. While there is an argument that this returns the issue to elected officials in the states, the reality for poorer women in conservative states is that some of them will have to carry babies they don’t want – even in cases of rape or incest – if they can’t travel to states that still allow abortion clinics.Abortion has always been an issue that stirs deep moral passion on both sides. But the backlash from the left is fueled by outrage at losing a legal right that women thought they would have forever. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez wants to impeach justices for lying about Roe and precedent at their confirmation hearings. Maxine Waters said “the hell with the Supreme Court. We will defy them.” So much for the rule of law.The media reaction has been more personal and more visceral than anything I’ve seen in my professional lifetime. Some female pundits have expressed anger, betrayal and despair for themselves, their daughters and nieces–and a number are attacking the high court.Linda Greenhouse, a former Supreme Court beat reporter for the New York Times who once marched in a pro-choice demonstration, ripped the Roe reversal as “arrogant,” writing: “What you have finished off is the legitimacy of the court on which you are privileged to spend the rest of your lives.”CNN anchor Jake Tapper, focusing mainly on Trump’s unproven fraud charges, said “the American institutions have held, barely, but you can be forgiven for wondering, as our European allies are, whether our American Experiment will ultimately prove successful.”Times columnist Pamela Paul says the country has become “mercilessness” and is there is an “American bent toward cruelty.” From abortion to guns to the death penalty, she says, “supposedly the institution vested with carrying out the highest standard of justice for its citizens and yet is wholly indifferent to the lives of America’s women, children and families.”I understand that by eliminating Roe, the high court threw kerosene on a smoldering fire, and that among other things has fueled criticism of whether certain justices were publicly and privately misleading when they were being confirmed. News organizations are also warning that the court may torch other major precedents – understandably, since Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion explicitly said that same-sex marriage and contraception should be reviewed.But the job of journalists, as opposed to opinion folks, is to be fair, and the argument that the conservative majority is returning the issue to elected state officials has definitely gotten short shrift. Again, that’s not some freakout fantasy – Republicans such as Mike Pence are calling for a nationwide ban and Mitch McConnell has said that’s possible.
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the National Press Club on Nov. 30, 2021, in Washington. Republicans such as Mike Pence are calling for a nationwide ban and Mitch McConnell has said that’s possible.
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)On the other hand, while Trump took credit for eliminating Roe through his three appointees, he did not celebrate the end of abortion–this as President Biden tried to reset the midterms by declaring “Roe is on the ballot.” Trump is reported to be concerned that the ruling could hurt with suburban Republicans and independents. It’s no revelation that politics has become increasingly tribal, with the red and blue camps demonizing the other side. The Dobbs ruling, leaked in advance to Politico, is escalating that we’re-right-you’re-evil mentality.An important debate is emerging on the right over whether the pro-life movement now needs to support social programs for babies once they’re born and the women who did not want to give birth. HOW POWERFUL TESTIMONY FROM STATE REPUBLICANS HIGHLIGHTED TRUMP PRESSURE CAMPAIGN David French, who has spent his career representing and fundraising for pro-life groups and is thrilled by the ruling, writes in the Dispatch: “Life and love are countercultural on too many parts of the right…In deep-red America, a wave of performative and punitive legislation is sweeping the land. In the abortion context, bounty-hunting laws in Texas, Idaho and Oklahoma turn citizens against each other, incentivizing lawsuits even by people who haven’t been harmed by abortion. “The pro-life movement, once solidly against prosecuting women who obtain abortions, is now split by an ‘abolitionist’ wing that would not only impose criminal penalties on mothers, it even calls into questions legal protections for the life of the mother when a pregnancy is physically perilous.”SUBSCRIBE TO HOWIE’S MEDIA BUZZMETER PODCAST, A RIFF ON THE DAY’S HOTTEST STORIESOn that point, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem told “Face the Nation” that doctors who provide abortions in her state would be targeted for prosecution, including if they send abortion pills to their patients.French doesn’t sound very optimistic. And he uses the vaccine wars to make his point:”Parts of pro-life red America moved from skepticism to outright defiance. ‘How dare you tell me what to do. This is my decision between me and my doctor.’”
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. On that point, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem told “Face the Nation” that doctors who provide abortions in her state would be targeted for prosecution, including if they send abortion pills to their patients.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)Sound familiar? I should be able to control my body?”They trafficked in pseudo-science and bizarre conspiracy theories…When I bring this up, people get furious..If you condemn the anti-vaxx movement, then you’re an elitist. You hate anti-vaxxers. How dare you question their decisions?”CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPAt a time when America could use some healing, both sides are doubling and tripling and quadrupling down and we’re looking at years of litigation, lobbying and possibly lawbreaking.Little wonder it feels like the country is being torn apart at the seams. Howard Kurtz is the host of FOX News Channel’s MediaBuzz (Sundays 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET). Based in Washington, D.C., he joined the network in July 2013 and regularly appears on Special Report with Bret Baier and other programs.
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