Republicans can’t do anything about the abortion issue
Republicans don't know how to "talk about abortion." Donald Trump said that following a string of losses blamed on his party's efforts to severely restrict it. Other Republican candidates have used the same words.
The problem for Republicans is not how they talk abortion but what they did about it. Trump vowed that as president he would appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion. He did and they did.
Reproductive rights are not some debate club topic like tax breaks for electric vehicles. They affect the core of family well-being. How many children parents can properly care for and afford. Whether they can protect the future of a 10th grader impregnated by her boyfriend.
Some early arguments for ending Roe sounded OK. It would have simply let the states decide. Culturally conservative areas might tighten the rules or close down clinics, while liberal states could keep access open. That assumed state Republicans would act carefully in the broad interests of their constituents.
What Republicans have proved is that they can't be trusted on this issue. Their leadership is beholden to radicals whose views on reproductive rights in no way match those of even most of their conservative electorates. And so you had voter uprisings in places like Ohio, Kansas, Montana and Kentucky over Republican efforts to take away all or almost all rights to end a pregnancy.
Americans are also being treated to creepy and tragic stories stemming from this erosion of essential medical care. Women are nearly dying or suffering physical torture because doctors fear being jailed for ending a pregnancy that had turned dangerous. Texas counties are letting private citizens sue anyone who helped women travel on certain local roads to obtain an abortion. Maternity care deserts are opening in states like Idaho, where five of the state's maternal-fetal medicine specialists have left the state or are retiring, as well as a growing number of delivery doctors.
Before he dropped out of the presidential race, Tim Scott sought to soften the anti-abortion stance by proposing a 15-week time limit, as opposed to Ron DeSantis' virtual ban in Florida. But two years ago, Scott co-sponsored a bill that proposed jailing doctors for up to five years for performing abortions after 20 weeks, unless the abortion is required to save the life of the mother. Imagine medically ignorant politicians second-guessing the doctors on whether a woman would have died or not.
The end of Roe opened new proposals for curbing reproductive freedom beyond the ability to stop an unwanted pregnancy. Right after the decision was announced, Justice Clarence Thomas declared that the Supreme Court should reconsider whether Americans even have a constitutional right to birth control.
Those who wanted to tighten some rules for abortion had other options. They could have started with recognition that Roe was never "abortion on demand" as some opponents claimed. It assured a right to legal abortion until the point at which a fetus could survive outside the womb. That's now around 23 weeks.
A reasonable discussion could have centered on reducing that time limit to, say, 21 or even 19 weeks — a recognition that improved medical technology is making somewhat younger fetuses viable. It would also preserve choice in continuing a pregnancy since the vast majority of abortions already take place within the first 12 weeks.
Yes, America is talking about abortion, but mainly about Republicans' crazy crusades to abolish a reasonable right to it. Thus, North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican, gained no ground saying, "How you talk about it matters." What you do about it is what really matters, and his party has done its worst.
Froma Harrop covers the waterfront of politics, economics and culture with an unconventional approach. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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