By placing the criminalization of abortion at the heart of their political agenda since the 1970s, and finally succeeding in getting the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision in June 2022, the Republicans find themselves caught in the trap of their ultraconservative drift. It is an understatement that the reversal of Roe v. Wade had the effect of an electric shock on public opinion, in which one poll after another shows that 60% of Americans think the right to an abortion should be recognized in most cases. Prisoners of their ultrareligious fringe and Donald Trump, Republicans, as disconnected ideologues, still fail to gauge the social and electoral mobilization that the overturning of Roe v. Wade has triggered and continue to hold on to extreme anti-abortion positions that reek of disregard for women and their health.
The signals sent during the November midterm elections should have made Republicans aware of the obvious risks, but they remain blind. If they succeeded at winning a majority in the House of Representatives, they performed worse than expected as a whole — in part due to radical and/or incompetent candidates knighted by Trump, in part due to voter retribution for overturning the Roe v. Wade ruling that constitutionally protected abortion rights for 50 years. In fact, one of the more striking results of those legislative races was that, in states where constitutional modifications were proposed in referendums, abortion rights protections prevailed everywhere. Voters in California, Michigan and Vermont made clear and consequential gestures by choosing to inscribe abortion rights into their constitutions. In an even clearer manifestation of the mobilization that Roe has provoked, two Republican-controlled conservative states, Montana and Kentucky, voted against more restrictive measures.
Be that as it may, the Republican Party persists against all electoral common sense, undermining without compromise anywhere they can, in legislatures and the courts, the freedom of women to choose. In the wake of the midterms, its governing body, the Republican National Committee, urged Republican governors and lawmakers “to pass the strongest pro-life legislation possible.” It was widely heard. The extremely anti-abortion state of Idaho recently passed a law punishing anyone who helps a minor obtain an abortion in another state without parental consent with five years in prison. In South Carolina, Republicans have introduced a bill making abortion the equivalent of murder and thus subject to the death penalty. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, anticipated rival to Trump for the Republican nomination, is preparing to sign a law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, which a majority of Floridians oppose, but hard core, reactionary Republican militants demand.
On the legal front, a Texas judge’s recent decision to suspend the use of the abortion pill, authorized by the Food and Drug Administration 23 years ago and relied on by 500,000 American women every year, further illustrates the scope of the setbacks brought about by the Supreme Court ruling. The FDA appealed as it should have, but the fact remains that an authoritarian deviation is taking place. Everywhere, and relentlessly, Republicans are utilizing the voting booths and the courts in their efforts to impose their antisocial and antidemocratic point of view. It is not really gratifying that this is a party losing its way to the benefit of the Democrats. As it loses all sense of moderation to the point of expelling, as it has just done, two Black Tennessee state lawmakers who protested for gun control as the number of shootings increase on American streets, it is a party growing more dangerous and politically violent, forced to defend its turf via gerrymandering.
Another call for Republicans to return to the center was sent no later than last week, the very day Trump was indicted in New York, by the election of pro-choice Judge Janet Protasiewicz, by an 11-point margin, over ultra-conservative Daniel Kelly, to the Supreme Court of the swing state of Wisconsin. For the remaining “moderate” voices in the Republican Party looking ahead to 2024, this defeat is chilling. “We keep going down these rabbit holes of extremism, we’re just going to keep losing,” warned South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace. It would benefit all of American politics, and not just Republicans, if she were heard.