In the summer of 1989, I stood at my kitchen counter, reading The Miami Herald and sipping coffee before heading to work, when I came upon an article that said the governor of the state of Florida was planning to call a special session of the Florida Legislature to act upon a recent Supreme Court ruling that opened the door for states to enact stricter abortion laws and regulations.
Something snapped in me. My thought was, Wonder if he had a mistress and she got pregnant. How would he feel about abortion then?
The idea for a book germinated on the spot. What if an anti-abortion governor’s mistress became pregnant, and her pregnancy threatens to derail his life, as unintended pregnancies have derailed the lives of so many women? What actions would he take — how far would he go — to rid himself of an unwanted pregnancy?
Two years later, with my husband’s blessing, I retired from my job as a VP in private banking at one of the largest banks in Miami, and spent the next nine months writing Moral Infidelity.
The premise: An anti-abortion governor who has built a successful political career on a platform of morality has an affair which, despite precautions, results in an unintended pregnancy. His mistress wants him and his baby, and threatens to ruin his life if he doesn’t leave his wife and marry her. Choice takes on a whole new meaning for the governor when the loss of everything that defines his life is on the line.
I did a great deal of research on pro-choice and pro-life controversies to keep the topic of abortion balanced and neutral. But that topic is just background matter in a thriller novel with twists and turns as the noose tightens around the governor’s neck.
Although there was promising interest shown by two major publishers, a deal never happened. I shelved the book and went on to do other rewarding and meaningful things with my life, including 14 years of caregiving for my parents.
After my parents passed away, I dusted off the manuscript, did some serious editing, and self-published Moral Infidelity in 2014. It did well in sales; it won two awards; it got amazing reviews. And that was that.
Now, six-plus years and three books later, Moral Infidelity is being republished on 1/11/22 by my publisher, Black Rose Writing. It’s timeless in terms of content, and I’m thrilled it’s coming out at this pivotal time; but I’m also disgusted that a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body is still being legislated.
The book is set in 1989, the year that the SCOTUS decision in Webster v. Missouri Reproductive Rights signified the first key break from Roe v. Wade.
A bit of history:
In Roe v. Wade (1973) the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 7–2 that the right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. The Court ruled unconstitutional a state law that banned abortions except to save the life of the mother.
The decision placed the government’s interest in protecting women’s lives and health over and above the government’s interest in protecting the potential life of a fetus, and established the right of every woman to make her own decision about whether or not to have an abortion.
In the years following, the Court heard various challenges, but not until June 30, 1980, did the first blow to Roe occur. In Harris v. McRae, a closely divided Supreme Court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited the use of federal funds for abortions.
Then on July 3, 1989, in Webster v. Missouri Reproductive Rights, the Court upheld a Missouri state ban on the use of public employees and facilities for performing abortions, effectively reversing course and demonstrating that Roe was not necessarily settled law which restricted future revisions.
Three of the Court’s majority — Rehnquist, White and Kennedy — recommended revisiting the Roe decision, while Justice Scalia even suggested that the Court overturn Roe.
Speaking for the minority, Justice Blackmun wrote that the ruling made clear that, for those who support Roe, “a chill wind blows.”
That was 1989. Consider that Roe has stood for more than 32 years from the time I stood in my kitchen, reading that article. The battle since then has been fierce, and Roe has been repeatedly wounded and diminished, but organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and politicians and jurists who believe in a woman’s right to have autonomy over her own body, have held off the actual demise of Roe v. Wade.
But the most serious threat to Roe is just days away from being heard by SCOTUS. Thomas E. Dobbs, Mississippi’s state health officer, is the named petitioner in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In its brief to the Supreme Court, Mississippi asked the justices to overrule Roe and the court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which said states could not impose an “undue burden” on the right to abortion before fetal viability.
The Mississippi law bans abortions if “the probable gestational age of the unborn human” is determined to be more than 15 weeks, with narrow exceptions for medical emergencies or “a severe fetal abnormality.” The state says that the fetus has made important physiological developments by 15 weeks, and that abortions are riskier to the mother at this stage of pregnancy. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which as the sole abortion clinic in Mississippi is at the center of the case, gave evidence to a federal appeals court showing that fetal viability is impossible at 15 weeks.
Although the court is not likely to rule on the Mississippi law until June, the makeup of the court with six conservative justices gives pro-choice advocates every reason to believe that this may very well be the end of Roe. This conservative majority has been decades in the making. The Christian right, an informal coalition formed around a core of conservative evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics, has been fiercely persistent in fashioning the court’s conservative make-up. But even they admit they never dreamed of having a staunch ally in a position as powerful as President of the United States — until Trump readily embraced that coalition, which could deliver millions of votes.
In 2016, VP Mike Pence portended what is a now a very real and stark possibility: “If we appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court as Donald Trump intends to do, I believe we’ll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history.”
Aided by Mitch McConnell’s unabashed and unashamed hypocrisy, Trump did just that, and made the Christian right’s dream of a rock-ribbed conservative-leaning court come true.
Division of church and state has never been so blurred. Six of the Supreme Court justices are Catholic — two thirds of the court, while only twenty-two percent of the US population is Catholic. We may never return to the days when the two are deemed separate. We will never have another Republican as clear on the need to do so as Ronald Reagan was when he said in 1984, “We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will be ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate.”
Which makes what Justice Blackmun wrote in the Webster v. Missouri ruling from 32 years ago even more likely: For those who support Roe, “a chill wind blows.” In today’s vernacular, we might even say, “Winter is coming.”