Josh Hawley says abortion ruling will push people to move states, strengthening the GOP

Tom Williams/Associated Press file photo
·5 min read

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley on Friday celebrated the U.S. Supreme court ruling eliminating the constitutional right to abortion, calling it a sweeping decision that would change the shape of American politics for the next decade.

“I really do think this is going to be a watershed moment in American politics,” Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, said on a call with reporters. “I think another period of transformative change in American politics is now upon us.”

The landmark decision, in which six conservative justices overturned a nearly 50-year-old precedent set in Roe v. Wade, is likely to send ripple effects through American politics as access to abortion will be determined by where someone lives.

Hawley said he welcomes the debate among states as some, like California, immediately moved to embrace abortion rights and others, like Missouri, immediately moved to restrict it.

He predicted that people will base where they live on whether abortion is allowed and that the decision will end up redrawing demographic lines across the country.

“I would predict that the effect is going to be that more and more red states are going to become more red, purple states are going to become red and the blue states are going to get a lot bluer,” Hawley said. “And I would look for Republicans as a result of this to extend their strength in the Electoral College. And that’s very good news.”

He said the political realignment would mean that social conservatives would no longer have to work with fiscal conservatives in politics, resulting in a more populist, conservative Republican Party — which is also the lane of the Republican Party he currently occupies.

His prediction was immediately met with criticism from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who wrote on Twitter that moving isn’t an option for many people whose roots may be in conservative states.

“I was born here, for better or worse,” Lucas wrote. “I’m not going any damn place else and I hope enough like-minded people stay too, so that we change things here.”

The first state-level fight plays out in Kansas

While Hawley said he welcomed the state-level debate about abortion rights, Kansas will be the first state that officially puts voter opinion to the test. In August, Kansans will vote on whether to add language to the Kansas Constitution that says abortion is not a constitutional right.

On Friday, politicians in Kansas weighed in on the vote, citing the heightened stakes now that the Supreme Court has officially overturned Roe. The vote has an out-sized impact on the region, as already many Missourians travel to Kansas in order to get an abortion.

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Roeland Park, urged Kansans to vote against the constitutional amendment. She was a co-sponsor of a House bill that attempted to guarantee access to abortion. The bill failed in the U.S. Senate.

“This is no longer hyperbole or hypothetical,” Davids said. “For 50 years, we’ve been protected from the most extreme attempts to control people’s decisions about their bodies, but that protection is now gone and Kansas is at a major decision point.”

Davids faces a competitive reelection bid this year, as a new congressional map added Republican voters to her district in a year when Democrats are expected to struggle in the polls. Her likely Republican opponent, Amanda Adkins, did not weigh in on the vote on the constitutional amendment. Instead, she criticized Davids’ stance on abortion.

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court returned decisions related to abortion back to the states because it gives voters more of a say on the issue,” Adkins said. “Most Kansans agree we want to reduce the number of abortions, support parents of minors being notified if their child is seeking an abortion, eliminate late-term abortions, oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, and support safety regulations in clinics.”

The provisions Adkins referenced are already in place in Kansas. Davids called her position out of touch with the 3rd Congressional District.

The Kansas vote would not ban abortions, but it would open up the possibility for the Republican-controlled Legislature to impose stricter restrictions. Republicans have generally avoided saying whether that’s their intent.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said he supported the decision and the fact that abortion rights will now be determined by the states, but didn’t mention the constitutional amendment. Neither did U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, when he issued a video statement about the ruling.

But U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, R-Galena, expressed his hope that Kansans would support the constitutional amendment so they could follow the lead of other states that have already imposed bans.

“Unfortunately, this welcomed ruling won’t protect life in Kansas,” LaTurner said. “It’s now more important than ever that Kansans reaffirm our commitment to protecting the unborn and vote to pass the Value Them Both Amendment to guarantee our state does not become a hub for unlimited abortions.”

The vote may give some indication on shifts in how people vote on the issue of abortion. The 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling helped grow the Christian Right as a force in American politics and the issue motivated many conservatives to vote. Now, with the decision overturned, Democrats see the issue as a potential motivating factor for those who want to guarantee abortion access.

In Missouri, the two top Democratic candidates in the primary for U.S. Senate — philanthropist Trudy Busch Valentine and retired Marine Lucas Kunce — were quick to denounce the decision. The Republican candidates in the race quickly hailed the decision and the subsequent ban on abortion except in medical emergencies in Missouri.