The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Hillary Clinton warned us this day would come

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks on during a debate in Las Vegas on Oct. 19, 2016. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

My response to the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision allowing the Texas law prohibiting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy to take effect will be cold comfort to women in the state who have lost control over their bodies. Adequate words fall short of the mark even for me, a member of the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington’s board of directors before joining The Post’s Editorial Board in 1990.

The best I can express is outrage over such a cruel Texas government action and dismay at the Supreme Court’s complicity in snubbing the Constitution.

I’m also sick at heart because five years ago, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton put the country on notice that this day could come.

While celebrating the Supreme Court’s June 27, 2016, decision rejecting of two restrictive provisions in a Texas House bill regulating abortion, Clinton warned in a campaign release that the fight for the right to access health care, and for women to make their own decisions about their bodies and their futures, was “far from over.”

She stated, presciently, "The fact that our next president could appoint as many as three or four justices in the next four years" is a striking reminder "that we can’t take rulings like today’s for granted.”

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Clinton left no room for speculation. “Just consider Donald Trump, the Republicans’ presumptive nominee. The man who could be president has said there should be some form of ‘punishment’ for women seeking abortions. He pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. And last year, he said he’d shut down the government rather than fund Planned Parenthood.”

And Clinton made clear the consequences. “If we send Trump to the White House and a Republican majority to Congress, he could achieve any — or all — of these things. And that’s why this election is so important."

"The outcome of November’s contests,” she declared, “is going to be a deciding factor in whether our elected officials and our courts defend or attack a woman’s right to health care for generations to come.”

After Texas’s 6-week abortion ban went in to effect, other Republican-led states implemented similar laws to spur test cases for challenging Roe v. Wade. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

The results are in. Of the five Supreme Court justices who allowed Texas to implement the strictest abortion ban in the nation, three — Neil M. Gorsuch in 2017, Brett M. Kavanaugh in 2018 and Amy Coney Barrett in 2020 — were appointed by President Trump.

You may argue back and forth whether fair warning is ever fair play. But there’s no disputing the fact that Clinton’s red alert came in plenty of time for voters caring about women’s rights to plan how to deal with Trump on Election Day. Did it fall on deaf ears?

Clinton handily won the popular vote but lost in the electoral college. Too many voters, in states where they were needed, failed to turn out or skipped her name on the ballot. The whys of it are being debated to this day. The fact is that some voters might have heard what she said was at stake but still chose to follow the alluring sounds of Trump’s snake-oil campaign.

Had truth won out in 2016, this dark day for women’s rights could have been avoided.

But, perhaps, some consolation might come with the thought that Texas’s dreadful law might serve to mobilize women’s health voters — across the entire gender spectrum — to do what apparently too many failed to do five years ago: flock to the polls to protect reproductive freedom like there’s no tomorrow. There wasn’t one for candidate Clinton five years ago. There should be plenty of tomorrows, however, for the cause of reproductive rights and justice — if voters, next time around, respond as they should have when Hillary Clinton first sounded the alarm.

Now, there’s no excuse.