Abortion has been a political litmus test for decades.
The issue is so contentious, pitting moral/religious convictions against bodily autonomy, that for many, abortion becomes a single-issue determination in how that person votes.
The abortion debate has perhaps never been as contentious as it is right now, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Now, the political parties are each working to court voters on disparate views of how abortion will be handled in America.
Each side seems to think their vision (access v. restriction) is a political winner. One side will, of course, be proven wrong.
My best guess is that the Democratic vision of enduring abortion access will prove to have stronger political viability than the Republican proposals.
Democrats expecting a boost on abortion issue
Joe Biden’s 2024 campaign is expected to hinge on two distinct fear-based messages.
First, if you don’t elect Joe Biden, then Donald Trump will exercise his autocratic tendencies and threaten democracy itself. Second, if you don’t elect Joe Biden, then Republicans will enact draconian restrictions on abortion.
The second message is appropriate for its political savviness, yet odd in that the president doesn’t have a direct impact on whether abortion access is allowed. The legislature can codify abortion laws. The judiciary can interpret the laws in ways that expand or restrict abortion access.
But the president isn’t going to do anything directly. So, it’s counterintuitive, in a sense, that a presidential candidate would hinge an election upon abortion. Yet it all makes sense in that few things motivate voters like abortion.
Biden, a Catholic with personal reservations about abortion, will campaign on preserving a woman’s right to choose against conservative efforts to restrict abortion.
Republicans split on abortion
But it’s not an all-or-nothing struggle. Within the Republican party, fissures are forming. The Republicans who recognize that restricting abortion is a tough sell are demurring from explicitly calling for an abortion ban – instead, they are falling back on the old conservative principle: the states, not the federal government, should be deciding abortion.
It’s a cop but it’s smart. When red-state Kansas voted against abortion restrictions last year it demonstrated that even in reliably conservative territories abortion is not always well received. Most Americans, it turns out, want to preserve access to abortion. Even many conservatives.
But those who want to restrict abortion access are zealous advocates with sizable political power. Candidates like Mike Pence, who called for a federal ban to abortion, speak to the conservatives who aren’t willing to chance the outcomes on state-by-state lawmaking.
Trump, the most likely GOP candidate, “said the federal government should play a “vital role” opposing abortion but again failed to provide specifics on what national restrictions he would support if elected to the White House again,” the AP reported. No doubt because Trump appreciates how volatile abortion is, even amongst conservatives. Trump needs to offer the standard Republican counter to the Democrats on abortion.
But Trump also needs to be careful not to overstep with the federal government and violate conservative limited government sentiments. Perhaps more importantly, Trump needs to be careful not to alienate conservatives who want to preserve abortion.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.