It’s surprising how quickly the Supreme Court’s decision to end a woman’s constitutional right to abortion is reshaping the national political landscape.
The change is affecting expectations about the November legislatures and the 2024 presidential race. The change is affecting the Southland and other suburban areas of the country.
Abortion was voted on Tuesday in Kansas, where a referendum sought to change the state constitution and give the legislature the ability to restrict or ban the procedure.
“Democrats showed a new sense of optimism about the election-year political climate Wednesday after voters in traditionally conservative Kansas overwhelmingly backed a measure protecting abortion rights,” The Associated Press.
After working for decades to impose its minority view on the majority of Americans, is a right-wing Christian movement finally discovering the limits of its reach?
Anti-abortion activists cheered on June 24 when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Activists have worked tirelessly to criminalize the procedure, even though polls have consistently shown that most Americans believe access should be a right.
The anti-abortion movement evolved so gradually that most Americans did not understand the issue’s role in the rise to power of the right. One way to better understand the bond is to consider the notion of commitment.
Until relatively recently, American politicians generally found ways to compromise and get most of what each side wanted, even when they disagreed. On abortion, opponents generally acknowledged that exceptions were needed in cases of rape, incest, and to save women’s lives.
Somewhere along the line, the right developed an intransigent position. A noble crusade replaced nuanced debate. Both parties used gerrymandering to capitalize on electoral victories in legislative supermajorities. Many Republican politicians mistakenly believed that extremist views in favor of a total abortion ban represented the will of the majority.
By politicizing the judiciary, Republicans used abortion to mobilize supporters to participate in elections. That was never more true than in 2016, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.
This tactic played a major role in Donald Trump winning the presidential election and appointing three conservative justices to the court. The decision to overturn Roe should have surprised no one.
Now comes the reaction. The Supreme Court ruling suddenly shifted the debate from the hypothetical and abstract to the concrete here and now. Several recent instances revealed difficult consequences of the court’s decision.
There was the woman in Texas who suffered a miscarriage and was forced to carry a dead fetus for two weeks because doctors didn’t want to risk violating state law. A 10-year-old Ohio rape victim had to travel to Indiana for an abortion prohibited in her state.
Republican politicians initially responded by doubting whether the rape story was true. Indiana’s attorney general pledged to investigate the doctor who performed the procedure.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday suspended an elected state attorney who publicly said he would not prosecute abortions prohibited by the state’s new 15-week ban. Republican supporters cheered. Critics warned about authoritarian rule.
DeSantis calculated that it was politically advantageous to impeach an elected official because of something that official said, not because he committed an illegal act or broke any law.
The results of Tuesday’s Kansas vote indicate that those political calculations may soon change. Experts expected a close vote because Kansas is a red state. Lawmakers put the measure on the primary ballot instead of the November general election because they believed most people voting Tuesday would be Republicans and favor the abortion ban.
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Voters said otherwise by a margin of about 59-41. The issue motivated large numbers of Democrats in the polls or large numbers of Republican voters defied their party’s expectations. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for the GOP.
Anti-abortion activists say their response to Illinois and other states strengthening access will be to push for a nationwide ban. To do so, they would need legislative majorities in both chambers and the presidency.
Conventional wisdom held that the president’s party loses seats in off-year midterm elections. Before June 24, Republicans hoped to win a majority in the House in November and possibly take control of the Senate. Recent polls indicate that Democrats are making gains on generic ballots.
In politics, you learn not to count chickens before they are born. Few predicted a Trump victory in 2016. The nation remains sharply divided on political and cultural issues. Now more than ever, every vote counts.
As long as we retain faith in the integrity of voting systems, election results are the only measure that matters, not the polls.
Ted Slowik is a columnist for the Daily Southtown.