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The Political Battle Over Abortion Will Never End
The fight for national legislation is just beginning.
One of the more naïve sentiments of those pleased with the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade is that this decision will somehow calm the political waters over abortion now that the issue has been returned to the people and the democratic process. It doesn’t take an advanced degree in political science or social psychology to know that this will not be the case.
If anything, the Court’s ruling has now opened the largest battle front yet on abortion: whose vision on abortion will be imposed on the entire nation?
The pro-life movement and Republican Party will never allow “abortion is murder” to be the law of the land in more than half the states. Determining which candidate is the most punitive on abortion will quickly become a litmus test in most Republican primaries. Since there are no remaining Republican moderates with any clout at the national level, the party will just give in to this position if that’s what their voters demand. The House Republican caucus is rabid and will chomp at the bit to ban abortion everywhere. The Senate minority leader is already on record saying a national ban on abortion is a possibility. We know that Mitch McConnell’s principles are malleable and he would easily discard his statements on the filibuster if he has the votes to pass a national ban and a Republican president to sign it. Republicans also know the Supreme Court will come up with whatever rationale it needs to allow this national ban despite its words about letting the states decide on the issue (which will only be heeded by the Court if Democrats were to somehow pass national legislation establishing abortion rights, a mighty tall order given their inability to amass stable majorities).
So, the Republican path for a national ban on abortion is not difficult to sketch out—as soon as the next presidential election. Americans won’t like this at all but Republicans don’t seem to care about national opinion or concern themselves with blowback given feckless opposition and advantages in the Senate and Electoral College.
On the other side, the Democratic left is about to implode completely on this issue. They can’t think straight about any issue these days and will probably move away from a sensible Roe-like defense of abortion rights to a more extreme position of abortion at-all-times with no restrictions. Since most Americans don’t like this position, and prefer the Roe status quo to alternatives, it won’t go far outside of the confines of deep-blue states and leftist Twitter circles. Likewise, the threat of pro-abortion militancy in response to the ruling is very real and will further repel voters from the cultural positions of the far left.
Nonetheless, the issue of codifying abortion rights nationally will also become a litmus test within the Democratic Party and the most extreme positions will win internally even if they can’t win externally. Democrats will talk nonstop about “doing something” nationally on abortion rights but will continue to lack the votes to do something rational like turn the existing majority supported Roe framework into national law.
What does all this mean for Americans? Nothing good. The likelihood of seeing one another across our political divides on this and other matters seems remote if still important.
Americans are about to be at each other’s throats nonstop over abortion for the foreseeable future—fueled by a political system that rewards extremism and punishes majoritarian compromises that reflect the will of most people. Rather than create more democratic harmony and reasoned debate over complex moral and political issues, the conservative mandarins on the Court have just unleashed the worst forces of zealotry and ideological arrogance in America.
The rest of us in the patriotic center will just have to tune out politics even more and try to vote for people with common sense and a commitment to leaving people alone and protecting their rights. And maybe in the meantime, we could all agree that women should at least have widely available, free contraception to help prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.