It’s only been a week since the explosive leak of a draft Supreme Court decision presaging the end of 50 years of legal abortion in America. But the GOP is wasting no time building its bleak, authoritarian successor state.
Having seemingly won their signal victory on abortion, Republicans do not have time for messy things like participatory democracy, only the raw exercise of power.
What Republicans are planning goes far beyond ending legal abortion as defined in the landmark case Roe v. Wade—and past what even many self-identified Republican voters want. In court challenges and proposed legislation from Idaho to Florida to Congress, the GOP has expanded its war on reproductive freedom to include their worst theocratic fever dreams.
Criminalization of miscarriages. Bans on condoms, IUDs, and other forms of birth control. Stripping pre-existing abortion protections from state constitutions.
These laws and bills represent not only the biggest backwards step in reproductive freedom in American history, they finally showcase the GOP’s twisted, totalitarian worldview for the entire world to see.
After days of dodging any comment on the substance of Justice Samuel Alito’s sweeping draft decision, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell finally offered a preview of nightmares to come. Republicans would be “more definitive” in their anti-choice agenda after the court overruled Roe, McConnell told USA Today on Saturday. That includes possibly criminalizing abortion nationwide if Republicans win back the White House and Congress in 2024.
“I don’t think it’s much secret where Senate Republicans stand on that issue,” McConnell remarked.
If McConnell gets his way, a 2024 abortion ban will only be the capstone to an exhaustive list of anti-choice bills now working their way through red-state legislatures.
State Republican parties have been busy; they’ve passed over 500 abortion restriction laws since January, and the pace is accelerating. The imminent reality of a post-Roe country has state lawmakers proudly introducing proposals that would have been thrown out as impossibly extreme by the Republican Party of even a decade ago. And their implications stretch far beyond Roe to attack fundamental privacy rights—which a growing number of Republican politicians now say need to go, too.
In Tennessee, Sen. Marsha Blackburn has taken issue with legal access to contraception—she called the landmark 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut case that secured that right “legally unsound,” a phrase Americans will be hearing a lot as Republicans chip away at our remaining privacy and reproductive health rights.
Blackburn isn’t alone. Blake Masters, a Republican Arizona senate candidate backed by right-wing tech billionaire Peter Thiel, recently pledged to only vote for judicial nominees who oppose the Supreme Court’s decision in support of legal birth control. Describing himself as “100% pro-life,” Masters drew a red line, vowing to oppose any potential judge who doesn’t “understand Roe and Griswold and Casey were wrongly decided.” In Masters’ world, contraception would exist only at the whim of red state lawmakers.
Republicans’ efforts are even outpacing the Supreme Court, which hasn’t yet delivered its official decision on the future of abortion. That hasn’t stopped Louisiana from amending its anti-abortion legislation to ban the practice from the moment of egg fertilization (it would also ban in vitro fertilization, which has been utilized by thousands of Louisiana families)—an extremist position out of step with both modern medicine and most Americans’ beliefs.
Idaho Republicans are going even further, after state Rep. Brent Crane confirmed he would hold hearings to consider banning IUDs and the contraceptive pill Plan B. In Tennessee, not even your mailbox is safe. A new law signed by Gov. Bill Lee makes it a felony, complete with a $50,000 fine, to receive abortion pills through the mail. So much for small government.
Where Republicans aren’t trying to pull contraception from shelves and criminalize healthcare, they are busy putting in place the machinery to amend state constitutions where abortion is already protected.
To the surprise of many lefties, ruby-red Kansas actually codifies the right to an abortion in their state constitution. But that won’t be the case if the Kansas Republican Party passes the “Value Them Both” amendment, which would explicitly declare there is no right to abortion in Kansas, and empower state lawmakers to pass whatever abortion laws they see fit. That includes nightmares like Kansas House Bill 2746, which would slap a weighty 20-year prison sentence on abortions—and like many other anti-choice bills making their way to state legislatures nationwide, Kansas' H.B. 2746 contains no exceptions for rape or incest.
(Editor's note: A previous version of this column stated that the "Value Them Both" amendment called for 20 years in prison for a woman who receives an abortion. It is actually Kansas H.B. 2746 which includes that penalty.)
For a party that once regarded constitutions as sacred documents, and denounced any talk of amending them as disrespectful to the very idea of America itself, Republicans are leaning into their new passion for amending state charters. Alaska legalized abortion in 1970—three years before Roe v. Wade—and the Alaska Supreme Court reaffirmed a woman’s right to privacy in making health decisions as recently as 1997. Now Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy says he’s open to overturning Alaska’s long pro-choice history, and fellow Republicans are proposing a constitutional amendment to permanently criminalize abortion.
This new extreme—abortion bans without any exceptions for rape, incest, or the safety of the mother—goes even farther than Republicans of decades past would have dared.
As a GOP congressman from Texas from 1967 to 1971 George H.W. Bush was known as a vocal supporter of contraception. Until recently, even some of the most conservative states had exceptions to protect the life of the mother. Not anymore. State Republican parties in South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, and South Dakota are all in the process of passing full abortion bans without any exceptions—but at least the women likely to suffer and die under this barbaric regime have Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s thoughts and prayers as they settle in for a long and unwanted forced pregnancy.
Nowhere in Republicans’ ambitious plans have they left any space for democracy, for discussion, for disagreement or discourse from the millions of women whose lives they are so eager to devalue. These abortion and contraception bans are treated as edicts, debated within the party, and delivered to the people as non-negotiable truth.
Republicans have mobilized their anti-choice agenda with incredible speed. Left unchallenged, the practical result will be a political, moral, and humanitarian disaster that will condemn women to second-class citizenship while shredding the last pieces of shared social fabric in an increasingly polarized and disunited nation.
And while all signs pointed to Democrats facing certain doom this November—where they’re widely predicted to lose control of both the House and the Senate in the midterm elections—there is still hope that a drunk-with-power GOP will overreach, and spark nationwide popular anger against their extremist policies.
Democrats are frequently (and often fairly) criticized for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But if they’re able to articulate to the American people the fact that the GOP is coming for a host of rights we’ve come to take for granted, perhaps this time it’ll be Democrats celebrating as an unhinged GOP fumbles its much-talked-about electoral comeback.