When the US Supreme Court in their Dobbs ruling in 2021 overturned its Roe v. Wade precedent and declared that the constitution did not provide a right to abortion, there was jubilation among the anti-abortion forces. They had finally achieved their dream and red states everywhere started enacting severe restrictions on abortion, some of those having been written in advance of Dobbs and just waiting for the opportunity to pass them.
But the Dobbs decision also galvanized the abortion-rights movement. Some states expanded the right to abortion while state constitutional amendments passed by referendum in Vermont, California, Michigan, Kentucky, Montana, and Kansas. Another is pending in Ohio this November. Furthermore, this issue is seen as playing an important role in increasing Democratic party success in the 2022 mid-term elections, dashing the hopes of Republicans who had been hoping that a ‘red wave’ would give them control of both houses of Congress with large majorities.
Alarmed by the realization that banning or severely restricting the right to abortion is not popular with a majority of voters and that Democrats are using it as a major factor when it comes to generating enthusiasm to register to vote and to vote for their candidates, Republicans are scrambling to find a formula that will enable them to look as if they are not extreme on this issue while at the same time placating their hard right supporters who would like nothing less than a complete ban on all abortions, some of them even opposing any exemption for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. They seem to think that the formula consists of finding the ‘correct’ number of weeks beyond which abortion is disallowed.
Mike Pence is one of the most hardline of abortion opponents and he seems to be part of a growing number of Republican politicians who support a federal law that bans abortion after 15 weeks that would be binding on all states.
During a CNN town hall in Iowa last month, Pence said he supports a federal abortion ban including exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. He also backs federal legislation limiting the procedure and has called on other 2024 GOP candidates to support a 15-week national abortion ban.
Pence told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer back in March that he would support legislation restricting abortion to six weeks of pregnancy. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law in his state that banned abortion at six weeks while President Donald Trump has suggested the legislation was “too harsh.”
But a 15-week federal law is likely to be viewed by the anti-abortion zealots as purely symbolic because the vast majority of current abortions are performed within that window.
The vast majority of abortions occur during the first trimester of a pregnancy. In 2020, 93% of abortions occurred during the first trimester – that is, at or before 13 weeks of gestation, according to the CDC. An additional 6% occurred between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, and 1% were performed at 21 weeks or more of gestation. These CDC figures include data from 40 states and New York City (but not the rest of New York).
Serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) seems to think that Republicans have gone too far in advocating for harsh restrictions on abortion and that they (and more importantly he) are going to take a hit in future elections unless they find that magic formula. But being who he is, he is vague about what his formula actually is, as evidenced by the many different answers that he gave on this topic in his interview with Kristen Welker. But there is no magic number that commands majority support.
A majority even oppose bans after six weeks. So we are going to see more and more Republican confusion on this issue as they try to placate the anti-abortion zealots among their supporters while also trying not to alienate the majority in the country who feel that some access is necessary.