If there’s one thing that’s clear as we head toward the midterm elections, it’s that Republicans can’t quite figure out what to do about abortion.
The problem isn’t difficult to understand. You just look at the polls.
Most Americans — 61% in a recent Pew poll — want abortion to be legal in all or most cases. Meanwhile, the right-wing, Trump/McConnell Supreme Court decided it didn’t, and so the conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade, which had been settled law for 50 years.
In so doing, the Court turned all decisions on abortion law back to the states. We know how that has turned out.
We’ve watched as bright-red state legislatures have either banned abortion altogether or came as close to an overall ban as they thought they could get away with. But it turned out the legislatures may have been way behind public opinion.
Because then came the Kansas vote, when, to the shock of a nation, voters in that redder-than-red state overwhelmingly rejected a referendum on banning abortion.
Then came the Michigan decision, when Republicans thought they had successfully kept a pro-choice referendum off the ballot. Turns out, the courts had another idea. And now in swing-state Michigan, Republicans will have to be openly running against abortion in November.
The controversy has become serious enough that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who had advised his conservative colleagues not to overturn Roe, but to limit it, is now out there like a politician stumping for the court. He’s trying to convince Americans that the Roe decision wasn’t political, but rather one that followed the law. I think we know how that goes over in blue states.
Meanwhile, according to the political gurus, the Democrats’ chances of keeping control of what is now a 50-50 Senate have grown fairly dramatically. Before the Roe decision, the Senate was seen as a tossup. Now, Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com gives the Democrats a 72% chance to keep the Senate.
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In light of this, Sen. Lindsey Graham has entered the fray. Hoping to save his fellow Republicans, Graham took it upon himself to introduce a bill that would ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest or saving the life of the mother. I guess he figured this was a compromise that would give Republicans some cover.
Let’s just say that the idea has some issues. Just ask Joe O’Dea, Colorado’s GOP nominee to face off against Sen. Michael Bennet.
O’Dea had this plan. In bluish Colorado, he would reject the Big Lie. And in winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate — against Ron Hanks, who is a Lauren-Boebert-level crazy — O’Dea would also be both pro-life and pro-choice. I know that sounds a little like splitting the baby, but it seems to have been a good move politically in strongly pro-choice Colorado.
Although personally pro-life, O’Dea decided he could support a bill in which women could choose to have an abortion in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy—after which abortions would be banned, with exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother.
In other words, it’s sort of like Graham’s bill plus five weeks. I’m not sure why 15 or 20 weeks, but I’m guessing it’s just that they’re somewhere close to the middle.
O’Dea has thrown in a few caveats like parental notification into the mix, giving him a possible out if a compromise Senate bill ever reached the floor, which is unlikely in the near, or even distant, future.
It didn’t mean O’Dea was in the clear. He was having to explain why he recently voted for a referendum that would have allowed abortions only up to 22 weeks, but without any exceptions thereafter.
Coloradans rejected the idea by a 59-41 vote. But there is some thought — which you can see reflected in daily emails from the Bennet campaign — that O’Dea is closing in on Bennet. In the latest CNN rankings, they had Bennet’s as the 10th most likely Senate seat to flip. Tenth is a long way down, but it’s close enough for Bennet to be sending out daily emails asking for money.
The national press started looking Colorado’s way. And so did some swing-state Republicans, who have been busily scrubbing their websites of any mention of abortion bans.
The thing is, what a 15-week nationwide ban would do, or a 20-week nationwide ban would do, is it would severely restrict abortion in states like Colorado, which has no restrictions. The woman decides. The doctor advises.
Put it at 15 or 20 weeks, choice turns into a limited choice, with the possibility of more limitations on the way.
Of course, in order to get that bill through, Republicans would need 60 Senate votes — along with a Republican president and a House majority — unless, of course, Senate Republicans decided to do what Democrats haven’t, which is to make a carve-out for the Senate filibuster for issues like abortion.
I don’t know how close O’Dea is, or how moderate he might be for a Republican. He has said he wants to work across the aisle, but in an interview with 9News’ Kyle Clark, O’Dea couldn’t come up with a single Democratic bill that he would help support. And as for women’s rights, O’Dea told Clark he wanted “balance,” while not quite explaining what that means.
O’Dea likes to say that he’s not running on culture-war issues, which is what you say when you don’t agree with the majority of voters. But now that Graham has reminded Coloradans what a Republican abortion bill might actually look like, and what it would mean for Colorado, the calculation for O’Dea just got that much harder.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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