A nationwide ban flies in the face of anti-abortion activists' insistence that they want the question returned to the states.
Even before a draft opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that would overturn Roe v. Wade leaked on May 2, conservative lawmakers and anti-abortion activists had been pushing for increasingly restrictive bans on abortion at the national level.
Prior to the publication by Politico of the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Caroline Kitchener at the Washington Post reported that Republican lawmakers had begun to craft a nationwide six-week ban on abortion similar to Texas'. Notably, the centerpiece of Alito's opinion is that the question of a right to abortion, affirmed in Roe v. Wade, should be returned to the states and decided by state legislatures. However, the actions of activists and legislators have already made it clear that they do not plan to stop there.
A nationwide ban flies in the face of anti-abortion activists' insistence that all they want is to have the question returned to be decided in the states. Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, has said publicly that returning abortion law to each state to decide is the superior option and would "modernize" abortion law. That's also the public stance Students for Life has taken as recently as March 2022: that it is fearmongering to say that reversing or eviscerating Roe v. Wade would make abortion illegal everywhere. Instead, says the group, "decisions about the legality of elective abortion would be returned to the states, and individual states would decide."
What Kitchener found was that both Dannenfelser and Students for Life have taken action to push for nationwide abortion bans. Dannenfelser said she has spoken with multiple GOP presidential candidates and most of them have told her they would support a nationwide ban and make it the centerpiece of their 2024 campaigns. Similarly, Students for Life is sending a letter to every GOP member of Congress pushing what they misleadingly call a "heartbeat bill" and saying that a national 15-week ban on abortion isn't enough.
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats are moving to protect the right to abortion at the national level. On May 11, the Senate will take a second vote on the Women's Health Protection Act, which would enshrine into federal law the right of providers to perform abortions and patients to receive abortion care. A previous vote on the bill failed in the Senate.
Much of the ability to protect the right to choose will come down to the 2022 midterms. If Democrats hold the House and Senate and expand their majorities, it may be possible to protect abortion. If Republicans gain majorities in Congress, they'll move swiftly to ban or severely diminish the right to abortion, despite their protestations that the question this should be left to the states.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.