The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion On representation and reproductive rights, there are no easy answers

Protesters gather in front of the Supreme Court on May 3. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)
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In his May 9 op-ed, “The court’s radicalism goes far past Roe,” E.J. Dionne Jr. correctly noted that ending the constitutional right to abortion would endanger the lives of many women and place a particular burden on the least privileged among us. However, he failed to address the issue of male responsibility for unwanted pregnancies. Men bear an equal share of accountability in the best of circumstances, and far greater where rape or coercion is a factor.

Any just societal approach to handling the issue must ensure that both parties to the conception bear a fair share of the consequences. Child support payments are an important step toward holding fathers accountable, although they do not work when fathers refuse to acknowledge their role.

With the possible loss or limitation of abortion choices for many women, we need an urgent national debate over male accountability in unwanted pregnancies. Only when we have a level playing field for both parties can the moral issues be properly addressed in a manner that serves the cause of equal justice.

Of course, there is no easy solution. One approach would be to develop a national DNA database so that the male creator of an unwanted pregnancy can be identified and held accountable. Male howls of outrage over such an assault on their privacy might even penetrate the thick walls of the Supreme Court. The screams should serve as a wake-up call to address the issue of shared responsibilities of men and women for unwanted pregnancies instead of again limiting female options.

J. Stapleton Roy, Bethesda

E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote that “conservatives hate it when anyone points out … three of the five … anti-Roe justices were named by a president who lost the popular vote … and were confirmed by senators representing a minority of the nation’s population. ”

We have the least democratic “democracy,” thanks to racism and slavery. When the Constitution was written, slaveholding states wielded outsize power. We all know of the three-fifths compromise. But what never seems to be acknowledged is the influence of these states in creating the electoral college, the Senate and even the Second Amendment. The first two ensured — and still do — an outsize influence for clear minorities. The Second Amendment ensured that slave rebellions would always be outgunned.

I give you Hillary Clinton, whose loss of the presidency in 2016 was variously blamed on how she wasn’t “likable” or on then-FBI Director James B. Comey’s wrongheaded disclosures about ongoing investigations, or gaffes made by the candidate or other irrelevances. The obvious truth is that the only reason she did not become the president was the electoral college. She won almost 3 million more votes than her opponent. Period.

I don’t see how to fix the Senate right off the bat, but the electoral college is inherently antidemocratic and there is no excuse for keeping it. But the Senate will never let it go.

Is this a great country, or what?

Ruth Skjerseth, Reston