The Washington Monthly Newsletter: November 9, 2023

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Dobbs has backfired on anti-choicers in every possible way

The 2023 elections produced more wins for reproductive freedom in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade: the Ohio referendum, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s re-election, and the Democratic sweep in the Virginia state legislative elections.

The anti-abortion movement’s 2023 losses fit snugly with its post-Roe 2022 losses: Senate defeats in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania; gubernatorial defeats in Arizona, Kansas, Oregon, and Wisconsin; and ballot initiatives in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont.

At the Washington Monthly, I dug into Glenn Youngkin’s Big Fat 15-Week Abortion Ban Belly Flop.

Eager to prove he could succeed where other anti-abortion politicians have failed, he chose to make the Virginia legislative elections a referendum on a 15-week abortion ban, and marshaled every ounce of creative energy he had to make it sound like a moderate compromise.

Instead, Youngkin only proved that “in post-Roe America, Republicans don’t win when abortion is the issue, even when you wear a cozy fleece.”

You might say: Abortion rights may be an electoral winner, but the anti-abortion movement is playing a long game. Pro-lifers will surely accept some electoral defeats in exchange for reducing the number of abortions.

But ending Roe has not even reduced the number of abortions!

The New York Times reported two weeks ago that, “In the year after the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion … [t]he total number of legal abortions in the United States did not fall. Instead, it appeared to increase slightly, by about 0.2 percent…”

How is that possible, now that 14 states have complete abortion bans and seven recently enacted stricter limits? According to the Times, “the expansion of telemedicine for mail-order abortion pills, increased options and assistance for women who traveled, and a surge of publicity about ways to get abortions.”

Think about that.

The anti-abortion movement toiled for 50 years to overturn Roe. The Federalist Society built a network to cultivate and screen prospective judges in order to overturn Roe. Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell went to extraordinary lengths to stack the Supreme Court and overturn Roe.

And what do they all get out of it? A slew of election losses and more abortions.

The anti-abortion movement’s strategy to eliminate abortion by overturning Roe is a failure in every possible way.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that overturning Roe is a net positive for reproductive freedom and women’s rights.

The macro numbers don’t tell the individual stories of people who couldn’t circumvent state abortion bans, or those who went through a gauntlet of needless obstacles and shouldered legal risks to exercise their fundamental rights.

All the anti-abortion movement has accomplished is the abrogation of women’s rights without any advancement in their own cause of curtailing abortion.

Those on the Right with a shred of pragmatism should think hard about what they wrought and dramatically change course.

Instead of trying to reach their goals by trampling on women’s rights, they should consider partnering with pro-choice organizations to promote sex education and contraception, which has already done a lot to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and in turn, abortions.

That would require accepting women as full citizens with bodily autonomy.

While we wait, click here to read Glenn Youngkin’s Big Fat 15-Week Abortion Ban Belly Flop.

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