How Would an End to Roe Play Politically?


An anti-abortion demonstrator holds an issue of National Review, End Roe, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Anthony Bolognese, Capitol Hill Photo)

I’ve been talking to some colleagues about how maybe it would be less consequential politically than we think, and wrote about that today in Politico:

The initial political reaction to overturning Roe and Casey would be thermonuclear, and it’s easy to see elected Republicans, who have no discernible post-Roe strategy, set on their back heels. The fallout from the Court’s moving against Roe is the foreseeable event that has the greatest potential to affect the trajectory of the midterm elections next year.

On the other hand, in the bluest states, where voters are most supportive of abortion rights, nothing would change in the post-Roe world. Red states would move to restrict abortion, but there’s a good chance that these measures would be popular locally. Would they anger and motivate voters in the blue states? Maybe. But Democrat Terry McAuliffe got nowhere trying to use the Texas abortion law as a political cudgel on the Virginia gubernatorial candidate race last month; few voters really believed Richmond was going to follow Austin’s lead.

It could be, then, that the decentralized nature of the American system — with various state legislatures working their will in a messy patchwork befitting a vast, diverse continental nation — comes up with an arrangement on abortion that is broadly acceptable to most people, if not necessarily morally or logically coherent.

That may not be satisfying to either side, but it would be more democratic and sensible than looking to nine justices to, in their wisdom, dictate a policy from on high.

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