For nearly 50 years, the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling has protected a woman’s right to an abortion. It also protected many politicians’ careers. Lawmakers who opposed abortion knew that as long as abortion remained available, pro-choice voters wouldn’t care much about their positions on the matter.
That would be especially true of suburban mothers. Once reliable Republican voters, they have moved toward Democrats in recent elections. If the GOP wants them back, forcing their impregnated high schoolers to bear children will not help. If Roe is overturned, more than 20 states are likely to make abortion virtually illegal, as Texas has done.
The Gallup polls show that public support for the right to an abortion has only grown stronger. Some 32% of adults surveyed said abortion should be legal under any circumstances, up from 26% in 2001. Some 48% want it legal only under certain circumstances, which is where the Roe decision (and I) stand. Those wanting abortion totally banned accounted for only 19% of the respondents.
Some politicians calling to outlaw abortion play the weasel by offering to make exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. They are total hypocrites. There is no moral difference between an embryo created in love and an embryo resulting from sexual violence.
Our partisan passions have made it fairly impossible to conduct a reasoned discussion of this issue. Many European countries have tighter rules than this country does. Germany, for example, allows abortion on request up to only 12 weeks after conception. In Sweden, it’s 18 weeks. The limit here is about 24 weeks. Both Germany and Sweden permit later abortions under special circumstances. In some cases, they also pay for the procedure.
Regardless of what happens to Roe or in the states that seem ready to ban all (or nearly all) abortions, access to abortion will not disappear. Obviously, telemedicine and the abortion pill will let some women bypass local obstacles.
Then again, a bounty hunter in Idaho could hack the computers of women in Texas to find transactions related to the abortion pill. He could then report the delivery guys who dropped the pill envelopes at their doors to the Texas authorities — and collect $10,000 from Lone Star taxpayers.
Of course, there’s always travel. Texas women seeking abortions have reportedly been flying thousands of miles to other states to obtain one. Maryland, Ohio and Washington are among the destinations. A reason for this long-distance travel is that clinics in bordering states, such as Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico, are overloaded with patients from Texas.
With the added hassle and expense, women who are poor or dysfunctional will be the least able to end their unwanted pregnancies. In 2014, some 75% of abortion patients were poor or low-income, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks these things.
To sum up, about four of every five Americans want to keep abortion legal. Roe has given anti-abortion politicians the ability to placate “pro-life” voters while not inconveniencing the others. But make one’s daughter, one’s wife or oneself fly from Mobile, Texas, to Seattle, Wash., for a procedure that once was locally available, and there are going to be repercussions at the polls.
There’s a silent majority here. Suburban mothers are not marching around with signs saying they want their daughters to get an abortion, but they want one if it’s needed.
In recent elections, this important voting bloc has been swinging between the parties. A decision upending Roe that leads to bans on abortion could tip the scales in favor of candidates who vow to protect the right to one. That would be the Democrats, and the party’s leaders know it.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.