On Monday night, the public got its first look at Justice Samuel Alito’s draft ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which left little doubt that the Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed justices would soon overturn Roe v. Wade. On Tuesday morning, the National Republican Senatorial Committee distributed talking points to the party’s incumbents and candidates.
Given the party’s decades-long campaign to uproot Americans’ reproductive rights, it was tempting to think the NRSC’s talking points would be celebratory. They were not. On the contrary, the Republicans’ message and tone was inherently defensive, in recognition of the simple fact that most of the country wants the Roe v. Wade precedent to be left intact.
It’s why the National Republican Senatorial Committee advised incumbents and candidates to tell voters, among other things, “Republicans DO NOT want to throw doctors and women in jail.”
The point was hardly subtle: Democrats will eagerly paint Republicans as extremists who will push radical prosecutorial ideas, which is why it’s important for GOP incumbents and candidates to reassure the electorate that the party’s goals are reasonable and mainstream.
It would be an important point — if it were true.
But it’s not. Politico reported today, for example, that Republicans in state legislatures have “already enacted mandatory minimum sentences that would go into effect if Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion is handed down.” Those policies include the prospect of felony charges against physicians.
Related measures that would open the door to prosecuting women are advancing right now. The New York Times reported this morning:
The State Legislature in Louisiana advanced a proposal this week that would classify abortion as homicide, going further than anti-abortion measures in other states by making it possible for prosecutors to bring criminal cases against women who end a pregnancy.... In addition to punishing women who obtain abortions, opponents said the bill would arguably criminalize in vitro fertilization and forms of birth control.
To be sure, individual state legislators frequently introduce outlandish proposals — many of which generate overwrought headlines — before going largely ignored in their respective capitols. This Louisiana measure, however, is being taken quite seriously: It passed a state House committee this week, and is advancing to the legislature’s floor.
In other words, Louisiana is moving forward with a proposal in which women could be charged with murder for terminating an unwanted pregnancy.
According to a Washington Post report, the Rev. Brian Gunter, a Baptist pastor, “helped draft the bill.” He told the Post that Louisiana already has a “trigger law,” which would make abortion illegal as soon as Roe is overturned, but he and his allies saw it as “woefully insufficient.”
I don’t doubt that many Republicans will take the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s advice and tell voters, “Republicans DO NOT want to throw doctors and women in jail.” But reality will continue to point in the opposite direction.