Until last month, it seemed that anti-abortion politicians had pushed the envelope as far as they could on attacking reproductive rights, knowing that Roe would ensure that most of their extreme rhetoric remained just that—words. Then Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the federal constitutional protections for abortion, and the safety net dropped out.
States got to work. They certified laws that allowed trigger bans passed in case of this exact scenario—the overturning of Roe—to go into effect. They defended lawsuits against their abortion bans of varying lengths. In the case of Indiana, state lawmakers became the first state since Roe to outlaw abortion after 10 weeks.
The only problem is that these laws are wildly unpopular; nearly two-thirds of the country supported Roe v. Wade. And Republicans now find themselves on a downward competitive spiral into further extremism. South Carolina Rep. Micah Caskey (R) is frustrated by people who think he’s not doing enough for the anti-abortion cause. “I’m told that a year ago I was a crazy fanatic for supporting a six-week ban, and now the goal post has been moved such that if I don’t support a complete and total ban whatsoever that I’m not pro-life?” he told Politico.
Caskey is a member of a committee writing South Carolina’s latest abortion ban, but implied that all the of the coverage of the consequences of anti-abortion legislation is forcing people to grasp the real-life consequences of these laws. Remember that pregnant woman who had to bring her own discharge into an emergency room to prove that she was indeed infectious and worthy of an abortion via the “medical emergency” exception? That story continues to haunt me, but it’s one of dozens that have been reported since June.
“It’s one thing to do it in practice. It’s another thing to do it for real. For all the energy and excitement and emotional expenditures around the heartbeat bill, there is absolutely a more concrete sense that what we do here is going to go into effect and be the law of the land in a way unlike the [six-week ban] heartbeat bill,” Caskey said.
Former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, former chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, warned that Republicans need to get their shit together on the issue of abortion or will start massively losing elections. “What Republicans need to be concerned about is: What is their branding going to be? Not just on this — we’ve already seen an erosion in the suburbs on cultural issues that have helped the Democrats,” he said. “That’s the problem, when people get emboldened … it takes rational discussion off the table. That’s where we are.”
Indiana State Sen. Vaneta Becker voted against her state’s abortion ban even though she is a Republican. “I don’t think people are taking into consideration how their constituents feel about this bill,” Becker told Politico. “I think it’s going to be an ongoing challenge for Republicans.”
The challenges are extending past legislative victories. In a new poll released Wednesday by USA Today/Ipsos, seven in 10 Americans—70 percent!—said they want to vote on abortion, like what just happened in Kansas. If a ballot measure was put forth, more than half said they would vote for legalizing abortion. When that number is broken down to party affiliation, 76 percent of Democrats would vote for abortion as would 52 percent of independent voters and 34 percent of Republicans.
The most interesting part of this bill is that most surveyed had not heard of the Kansas ballot measure. Fifty-nine percent said they had either heard about the ballot measure but knew nothing about it or had not heard of it at all. Despite this, nearly three out of four people surveyed wanted to vote on an abortion ballot, taking advantage of the Republican strategy of returning abortion to the states.
Abortion remains popular. In this poll, only 9 percent said they wanted a total abortion ban. And yet, that’s the next logical step Republican lawmakers have to engage.
If you overturn the constitutional right to abortion and manage to claw back the House of Representatives? You do what House Democrats have been doing: Pass bills that your base will love and that you believe in and then let them die in the Senate. If you manage to take back the Senate? You have to pass the national abortion ban called for by people considered middle-of-the-road conservatives like Mike Pence and anti-abortion advocates alike. A nationwide ban is why gerrymandered Republican voters install Republican politicians! You can’t just take away the carrot you’ve been dangling at voters for 50 years because you’ve suddenly realized the consequences of your actions.
Hopefully, the voters have already seen enough.