When some raging controversy blows up in an election year, Democrats and Republicans alike sometimes decide it’s better to have the hot issue than the solution.
Not that any solution is possible for the U.S. Supreme Court’s recently leaked ruling on abortion. The first draft of the decision, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, has not been published yet but it is known to say the famous — or infamous, depending on your view — 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling was wrongly decided.
Assuming the high court turns the abortion issue back to the 50 states, we’ll see a scramble of some states like New York and California enshrining abortion choice by statute, while other states like Mississippi and Texas enforce restrictions their Legislatures have already enacted. The leaked ruling came in a Mississippi case involving a ban on abortion after 15 weeks gestation, which was enacted for the purpose of testing Roe in the current Supreme Court.
It’s not by chance that pro-choice and anti-abortion legislators are divided, for the most part, red and blue — Democrats wanting to restore the freedoms the Court granted women nearly 50 years ago, Republicans seizing on a long-sought opportunity to roll back abortion rights. Just last week, the U.S. Senate demonstrated how starkly partisan the issue really is.
Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., knew he would lose when he forced a floor showdown on a bill to codify the Roe ruling into federal statute. But he wanted to get the Republicans on record, and a cloture vote failed 51-49. Only Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., broke ranks to side with the Republicans.
Heading off a filibuster to put abortion choice into statute — rather than having it as a now-doomed legal precedent — would require 60 votes in the Senate, and neither side has that strength. But both sides have the issue, with an election just six months away.
Moments after the Senate vote, U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando put out a fund-raising request saying that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., “was among the Republicans who voted against protecting the right to choose…. I am TIRED of Marco Rubio telling women what to do.” She’s running against him.
The Florida Democratic Party rushed out a statement accusing both Rubio and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., of denying women control of their bodies.
Well, that’s not precisely what they did. Rather than telling anyone what to do, Rubio and Scott voted not to cut off debate on the bill codifying Roe. It would have been startling, and quite out of character, if either senator had voted with the Democrats, especially on abortion.
Republicans have been prudently reticent since Alito’s draft opinion was leaked. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it’s “possible” that Republicans might impose a nationwide abortion ban if they take over Congress next year, but that’s a fairly tepid response to such a hot topic.
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Gov. Ron DeSantis, also up for re-election, has been conspicuously cautious in avoiding comment on the demise of abortion freedoms. But nobody paying attention can doubt where he stands.
DeSantis recently signed a 15-week abortion limit similar to Mississippi’s statute pending before the nation’s highest court. It was among a batch of conservative goodies — a ban on trans-gender athletes competing in girls’ sports, a congressional redistricting map favoring the GOP, a “Stop WOKE” act forbidding schools and employers to enforce political correctness, prohibition of critical race theory in public schools.
The governor hardly needs abortion to show off his conservative bona fides.
The Democrats, meanwhile, are sounding alarms that reversing Roe is just the first step in reversing most progress of the last 70 years. If the Court can recede on abortion, they warn, what would stop the GOP-appointed justices from reversing legalization of same-sex marriage, or inter-racial weddings or even the 1954 school-integration landmark?
That’s what politicians call a “parade of horribles,” rhetorical overkill meant to fire up the Democratic base. Except for a few deranged haters, the American people have pretty much accepted those principles and there are no serious efforts to reverse them.
Although about 70% now support keeping abortion legal, Roe has been steadily attacked in the courts, Congress, and state legislatures through the half-century of its existence.
Bill Cotterell Is a retired Tallahassee Democrat Capitol reporter who writes a twice-weekly column. He can be reached at email@example.com
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Democrats decry abortion ruling but need it in November | Bill Cotterell