Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Abortion Politics

The  United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear an abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson, which is not likely to be decided for approximately twelve months.  Steve M. has a thought of how the Court therefore will rule and writes (or blogs, or types)

A ruling that guts Roe threatens the project of electing Republicans. On the other hand, a ruling that doesn't gut Roe demotivates Republican voters. So I expect a ruling that will batter Roe but leave it standing, if barely. The portion of the Democratic electorate that isn't deeply engaged in politcs will regard the decision as tolerable, while the right will understand that change has been made.

I'm guessing the Court will say that 15-week bans are fine while suggesting that 6-week bans might not be acceptable, so the decision seems "centrist."

This Court will never stop attacking Roe but might never have the honesty to reject it outright. The time to do that would be after a sweeping Republican victory that leaves the party with a cushion of several seats in the House and Senate -- and then the ruling should come down more than a year before the next election.

I think that's about right.  Polls- or at least this poll- typically have found Americans to be nearly equally divided between those who consider themselves "pro-life" and those who identify as "pro-choice."  While there are many individuals who believe abortion should be illegal in almost all circumstances and many who believe it should be legal in almost every circumstance, there are roughly as many people who believe it should be legal in some circumstances as those who take the extreme positions combined.

Yet, there has been for a long time a solid majority of Americans opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade. That seems counter-intuitive because its elimination would technically merely return the issue to the states.

However, it appears that many people understand that the impact of upending the famous 1973 decision would go far beyond that. As a video from CBS News indicates, there are five states which have passed abortion "trigger laws," which would ban the procedure in nearly all cases if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Moreover, a "few states" have amended their constitution to remove any protection of reproductive freedom.

Except that was in February, 2019. There now are ten states- Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Missouri, Tennessee, South Dakota and Utah- which have passed such legislation. Additionally, nine states which banned abortion prior to Roe v. Wade could simply choose to enforce their existing laws if the landmark decision is cancelled.

Three months ago, US News summarized

In the past few years, state legislatures have enacted more than 250 abortion-related laws in 45 states, according to the study from authors at the University of Utah. Of the laws enacted between January 2017 and November 2020, 88.7% restricted access to abortion services. Seven states accounted for more than half of those restrictive laws: Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio and Utah.

The laws ranged from funding constraints and restrictions for physicians to waiting periods for patients and gestational limits. Some would trigger a complete ban on abortions if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.

On the side of expanding access to abortions, Washington, D.C., and 12 states expanded access with 29 laws between 2017 and 2020, 11.3% of the total laws enacted during the period.

They may not know the details, but the American people seem to have an intuitive sense of the stakes involved in determining whether Roe v. Wade should remain.  Though the right to an abortion remains a very controversial issue with most people, there may be a rough consensus. There is a sense, rational or otherwise, that too many abortions are taking place and thus they should be deterred, but that the procedure should remain available (within limits) for when it is needed.

That equilibrium, which has existed unequally and uneasily for a few decades, would be upended if Roe v. Wade is overturned. It would not go unnoticed by voters.

The fictional Mr. Dooley once wisely stated  “no matter whether th’ constitution follows th’ flag or not, th’ supreme coort follows th’ iliction returns.” The Supreme Court now is dominated by partisan Republicans keenly aware that ending any and all protection of reproductive freedom might be signing a death warrant for the GOP. Thus, as Steve M speculates, while Roe v. Wade currently is on life support, it's unlikely to flat line in an election year.


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