Did Republicans REALLY Want ‘Roe’ Overturned?

Be careful what you ask for.

It’s a handy old saying and one that I think Republicans are thinking about right now. Maybe they should have been more careful.

This morning the US Supreme Court released its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It effectively overturned Roe v. Wade, the precedent that guaranteed the right to an abortion. That means outlawing abortion or keeping it legal will be up to the legislative branch. It becomes a matter of state politics, not constitutional law.

So where does political support for abortion stand in the USA?

Lots of polling has been done on this, and responses on the issue depend on how you asked the question. A Pew Research Center survey asked the respondents if abolition should be legal in all or most cases: 61 percent said yes. Only 37 percent said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

A Gallop poll asked people if they think abortion should be legal under some circumstances(50 percent said yes), legal in all circumstances(35 percent), or illegal in all circumstances(13 percent).

What the polls have in common is evidence of strong political support for legal abortion. And Republicans want abortion left to the political process? Really??

Like I said. Be careful what you ask for.

Let me tell you another story about something Republicans claimed they wanted: Defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).  I’ve worked in public radio for a long time and, for a long time, I’ve seen Republicans in Congress propose and sometimes pass bills to pull all government funding from public radio and TV stations.

Over the years, you’d see one chamber of Congress, controlled by the GOP, pass a bill to defund the CPB. Democrats who controlled the other chamber would refuse to pass it.  When there was a Democratic president, everyone was pretty sure he would veto any such bill that came to his desk.

Then comes 2016, and for two years Republicans controlled the House and the Senate and they had a Republican president, Donald Trump. Suddenly, Republicans weren’t passing bills to defund the CPB. They had the votes. They had a sympathetic president. In fact, Trump proposed a budget in 2017 that would have cut all funding to the CPB. But the push to defund in Congress just kinda went away.

To me it’s pretty clear that Republicans never wanted to eliminate funding for public broadcasting. Because if they did, all of those public TV and radio stations in sparsely populated red states would fold. Those rural stations don’t raise enough money to get by without the government subsidy. That means all of that public radio news, all of that children’s programming on TV would disappear.

It was fine for the GOP to act like they wanted to stop the government subsidy and get rid of that “left leaning” NPR and PBS programming* — when they knew it wasn’t going to happen. No one suffered from their tirades and they had an issue they could use to fire up their conservative base. But when it came time to actually DO IT, they found other things to talk about.

Returning to Roe v. Wade, I think we’ve been seeing the same political theater. Abortion is terrible, they said, and if only we had a Supreme Court that would throw out abortion rights. Well, you got it!

Some southern red states will probably outlaw abortion. But in other states that have large numbers of educated women, Republican state legislatures and governors will find some way to change the subject. We’re talking about a country where up to 85 percent of people want legal abortions under at least some circumstances, if not all circumstances.

I take no position on how the Supreme Court should have ruled as it affects on Roe v. Wade; no opinion, at least, that I would share on this public blog. But if you think GOP-controlled legislatures and governors are going to get right to work banning abortion, let’s wait and see. You might be surprised.

* Years ago, as a reporter in Minnesota, I did an on-the-spot interview with the now deceased Senator Bob Dole from Kansas, a leading Republican for many years. He found out I was from public radio, which he then described as “left leaning.” He was talking about in the way NPR covered the testimony of Anita Hill, who accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. 

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