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Roe’s fate will echo Obamacare

July 15, 2018

Some Republicans think that when Brett Kavanaugh is added to the Supreme Court, they will finally be able to overturn the Roe vs. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. They are wrong. It will be reduced, not eradicated. The GOP’s failure to repeal Obamacare serves as a good example.

Prior to Donald Trump’s election as president, Obamacare wasn’t that popular with most voters. It clearly helped some people, but was too costly for others — and simply regarded as an unfair mandate by many. With Trump’s election, and GOP control of both chambers of Congress, it seemed that Obamacare was headed for the dustbin of history, and fast.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral. Voters realized that Republicans had no plan of their own to substitute for Obamacare. In fact, they hadn’t come up with one ever since it was approved by a Democratic-controlled Congress in 2010.

Faced with a choice between the devil they knew and one they didn’t, the American people reluctantly warmed up to Obamacare. It seemed better than nothing, and moderate Republicans in Congress heard their constituents. The GOP struggled to get a bill through the House, and when it finally did, the measure lost by one vote in the Senate. Republicans haven’t tried to dump it again, though they have chipped away at it.

The same fate awaits GOP hopes of outlawing abortion. A clear majority of voters wants it to remain legal, even if they also want sensible limitations like parental notification and no late-term abortions. But in the abstract, before an actual vote looms, it’s easy to rail against it at campaign rallies or promise to wipe it out at some vague point in the future.

Presuming that Kavanaugh is confirmed, a Roe reversal is not likely. Most legal scholars think the court has too much respect for precedent and won’t even consider undoing the 1973 ruling. It’s not even clear that Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts would go along with any justices inclined to try that. Remember that Roberts surprised everyone by voting with the liberals to uphold the legality of Obamacare.

The court might well say the states have more authority to regulate abortion, which would make it difficult or impossible for it to continue in Red states. But legislatures in Blue states won’t touch it, and women who really want abortions will cross state lines to get them. Another point is that more and more women are ending their pregnancies with pills, not surgical procedures.

Some poor women won’t be able to use either option, which would result in more children being born into poverty. That won’t go over well with undecided voters. Among young voters — the future electorate — support for abortion is much higher. Even most Republican women oppose a ban.

Long-term, banning abortion is just not a winning proposition for Republicans, who already face demographic challenges in future elections. A Supreme Court with Kavanaugh on board may not change the status quo much, if at all. Ironically, that will keep more Republicans in power.

Thomas Taschinger is the editorial page editor of The Beaumont Enterprise. Follow him on Twitter at @PoliticalTom

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