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For many in GOP, returning abortion to the states won’t be enough

If Roe is overturned, states would write their own laws related to reproductive rights. It's why many Republicans are interested in a national ban.


If Republican-appointed justices overturn Roe v. Wade, as now appears very likely, this would not ban abortion rights in the United States. Rather, depending on the scope of the Supreme Court’s decision, each state would likely be able to write its own laws related to reproductive rights.

The result would be a patchwork system. For much of the right, however, that wouldn’t be good enough.

The Washington Post reported this week — coincidentally, the same day that Politico published its scoop on Justice Samuel Alito’s draft ruling — that conservative groups hoping to ban abortion have already met with their congressional allies about a possible “nationwide ban on the procedure if Republicans retake power in Washington.”

The discussions have reportedly advanced to such a stage that specific GOP senators have already sketched out policy details — they’re eyeing a six-week abortion ban — and who’ll be involved in drafting the legislative restrictions.

After Alito’s draft reached the public, the talk didn’t die down. Yesterday, for example, Sen. Kevin Cramer talked to NBC News’ Frank Thorp, and the North Dakota Republican raised the prospect of someone leaving his state to terminate an unwanted pregnancy in a different state. The senator added:

“I don’t find a lot of solace in that just because it didn’t happen in my state. So yeah, I think you could expect that pro-life activists would push for federal protections.”

Cramer added that when it comes to federal abortion restrictions, he “wouldn’t take that off the table.”

Around the same time, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky sent a written message to conservatives endorsing his own proposal that would ban abortion at the national level.

To be sure, passing any such measure would be very difficult, but the point remains that for roughly the last half-century, such talk was easy to dismiss with a wave of the hand: Roe created a constitutional floor that GOP policymakers could not fall below. Republicans’ goals were interesting, but not threatening, since the legal precedent established an American right.

Without Roe, however, there is no bottom — and for much of the GOP, there is no reason to simply let states do their own thing.

In fairness, it’s important to emphasize that many prominent Republicans have said in recent days that they’re content with a state-by-state approach. But that too is emblematic of where the GOP stands on the issue in 2022.

In the recent past, conservative Republicans opposed reproductive rights, while more moderate Republicans supported reproductive rights. Now, the “moderate” position in the GOP is overturning Roe, while more conservative GOP officials are eager to explore a national ban.