August 11, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Talk of national abortion ban shows that Republicans don’t know what to do after Roe

We should be mindful of this.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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I think one of the unintended consequences of consuming daily amounts of rightwing media, and nothing else per day, is that some Republicans came to believe that most Americans agreed with them on abortion. If it wasn’t murder, it was certainly a matter best left to the states. By the time the US Supreme Court overturned Roe, they believed that the majority was on their side. 

Then, once regulatory authority was returned to the states, the Republicans quickly realized that their antiabortion views were not as representative as their daily consumption of rightwing media had them believe. They quickly realized that the majority was against them. 

Tuesday’s vote in Ohio, in which voters rejected a proposal that would have stopped movement toward enshrining abortion rights in the state’s constitution, is only the most recent in a series of events to show that states’ rights are not what the Republicans had hoped they’d be. 

And now that states’ rights are backfiring in some states, some GOP voters are reversing themselves. They are warming up to the idea of using what they would call “Big Government” to get what they want. In the process, they are revealing their true position on states’ rights.

And that they don’t know what to do post-Roe.

After the Dobbs ruling, 83 percent of GOP voters said that politicians “should leave decisions on abortion restrictions up to the states” rather than “push for further restrictions on abortion nationwide,” according to the Post’s Aaron Blake, who looked at last summer’s polling by CNN.

But today, Blake said, the percentage of GOP voters who prefer that politicians enact a national ban on abortion “has doubled, to 34 percent. They now lean in favor of state-level restrictions 66 percent to 34 percent.” It’s another example of the rightwing media’s influence.

Blake is right to say that too much can be said of this. He’s also right to say that these things often start small and snowball. The GOP pushed to overturn Roe for decades without expecting to succeed. The next few years could see a similarly cynical push, paving the way, when political conditions are right, for what could be an actual national ban.


But I think we should be mindful of the larger point about the Republicans’ true position on states’ rights. They’re for states’ rights when they yield the right results but against them when they don’t. 

And we should also be mindful of this – they don’t know what to do.

They don’t know what to do about the already mentioned backlash. It’s not letting up. Nor do they know what to do about an executive branch that is rapidly deregulating the “pregnancy market,” as I once put it. 

The Biden administration approved a birth-control pill — called Opill — for sale over-the-counter without a doctor’s prescription. It also changed a rule to allow the so-called abortion pill (mifepristone) to be distributed by retail pharmacies, not just hospitals and clinics.

The Republicans also don’t know what to do about a new underground abortion-pill railroad of sorts. Democratic states that permit most forms of abortion are passing shield laws to protect doctors in those states who are shipping mifepristone by mail to pregnant people in Republican states that restrict most, or all, forms of abortion.

They don’t know what to do because the available arguments against deregulating the pregnancy market are typically GOP arguments. Republicans generally favor deregulating everything, including abortion. Remember, Dobbs returned power to regulate to the states.

Now that those arguments have been co-opted and made operational by the opposition, the Republicans are left to talk about absurdities, like ending “abortion tourism” or enacting a national ban on abortion, both of which come back to revealing their true position on states’ rights.

They don’t know what to do now that Roe has been shattered into political units much smaller than states, and now that matters of abortion are being decided pharmacy by pharmacy, mailbox by mailbox.


John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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