You can tell which side of the aisle is optimistic about the politics of the abortion bans in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and elsewhere. When asked about the Alabama ban, Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) (who lost her race for Senate but was then appointed to the seat originally held by the late senator John McCain) ducked. “That’s a state issue. I’m focused on my work here," she insisted.
In a press call Thursday morning NARAL Pro-Choice America executives, NARAL’s president Ilyse Hogue rebuked McSally. “That’s at best naive and at worst a deceptive response by McSally.” Hogue pointed out that this is a coordinated “attack” by the extreme right and, moreover, that all federal officials have a role to play in women’s health. (McSally, of course, also votes on judges.)
Meanwhile, the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) went so far as to publicly oppose the law. That leaves him in the uncomfortable position of recognizing that left to their own devices (as wanted by those urging the overturn of the Roe v. Wade precedent), many states will pass draconian measures. “I believe in exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, and that’s what I’ve voted on,” he said. The Republican leader who has been hollering for years that Roe must be reversed insisted, “Look I’m not an attorney. I’m not on the Supreme Court.”
One wonders how long it will be before President Trump recognizes this as a political disaster, one that will tie him to the most cruel, farthest-reaching and (from a national standpoint) least-popular abortion law in recent memory.
NARAL and its allies, as Hogue said, have been preparing for this moment for years. What she calls a “race to the bottom,” exactly matches pro-choice advocates’ warnings when Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh were nominated to the Supreme Court: The right wants to destroy Roe and ban abortion. She recalls that conservatives called pro-choice forces “hysterical” for even suggesting Roe might be endangered. (Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) essentially put her entire career on the line insisting Kavanaugh would not eliminate Roe and uphold these kinds of laws.)
In Hogue’s mind, the pro-life movement is racing against the clock. It suffered losses in 2018 and may do so again in 2020. Moreover, unlike Collins, pro-lifers are convinced they have the court they want to uphold Alabama’s law and similar efforts.
The pro-choice forces are marshaling resources, engaging in massive organizing in all 50 states as part of its Stop the Bans initiative, financing legal challenges and pressing presidential candidates to explain their plan to address abortion bans. Hogue said it’s great that all of them agree on the merits with NARAL’s effort to strike down the bans and uphold Roe, but “we want to hear how they are going to help us dig ourselves out of a hole.” It’s a federal, state, judicial and presidential issue — with no obvious, easy fix, Hogue notes. (NARAL does support court “reform” and wants to discuss various ideas circulating.)
Republicans in red statehouses, as Hogue put it, are engaged in a macabre “one down-manship” as they race to outdo one another in crafting severe, oppressive legislative. There’s a “drunken headiness of the extreme fringe” of the GOP, she says. National Republicans, including Trump, had better sober up quickly: They’ve triggered a fierce backlash that may make the female voters of 2018 look docile in comparison.