J. Pharoah Doss: Roe v. red wave

by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier

When the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, abortion wasn’t banned nationwide. The reversal lets each state decide the legality of the procedure without federal intrusion.

Pro-choice advocates complained that the Supreme Court’s decision banned federal protection for women from male-dominated state legislators that would outlaw abortion, with no exceptions.

The religious-right, which fought for fifty-years to strike down Roe, embraced the Supreme Court’s decision as the dawn of a new pro-life era in America. On the other hand, the non-religious-right viewed Roe’s reversal as a constitutional victory that reinforced federalism but understood it wasn’t a pro-life mandate to criminalize abortion.

The non-religious-right cautioned red states to avoid extreme anti-abortion legislation because it would jeopardize the “red wave” expected during the 2022 midterm election.

Midterm elections are referendums on the president’s party.

If voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, then the president’s party normally loses dozens of congressional seats and control of Congress. In 2010, Obama was in charge of an economy that was struggling and had a high unemployment rate. That led to a “red wave” in which Republicans won more than sixty seats. In 2018, Trump’s administration had low approval ratings because of pointless fights with a Republican-controlled Congress. As a result, Democrats won 40 congressional elections in a “blue wave.”

Since the Biden Administration oversaw a post-pandemic economy that was hurt by the highest inflation rates in 40 years, the religious-right and state legislators in red states trusted history, thought a “red wave” was inevitable, and wrote anti-abortion laws without the slightest worry about a Democratic response.

It didn’t take long before the media revealed an ugly consequence of a state’s swift anti-abortion law.

The Washington Post recapped, “When the Indianapolis Star published about a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio who was forced to travel to Indiana for an abortion because of new restrictions in her home state, it sparked a national frenzy. An indignant President Biden cited the story a week later as an example of extreme abortion laws, and his political opponents pounced. They suggested it was a lie or a hoax. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board concluded it was ‘too good to confirm,’ and The Post’s Fact Checker cautioned it was ‘a very difficult story to check.’ Ohio’s attorney general went further, calling it a ‘fabrication.’ Meanwhile, local journalists went digging … Reporters in Ohio and Indiana proved that the horrific story no one wanted to believe was indeed true.”

The non-religious-right knew abortion was a political liability, and cases such as the 10-year-old rape victim made the Republican Party look retrograde and authoritarian.

But the religious-right doubted that the American people would vote against their own economic interests and expected mid-term history to repeat itself. The overconfidence of the religious-right made them blind to the details that separated this midterm from previous midterm elections.

Since former President Trump’s Supreme Court appointments were responsible for reversing Roe, Trump endorsed many Republican candidates, and Trump still seeks the presidency in 2024, the 2022 midterm turned from a referendum on the sitting president; to a rejection of the former president’s party.

More importantly, the religious-right wrapped up economic issues with rent and gas prices but failed to realize abortion was an economic issue too.

Stacy Abrams, Georgia’s Democratic nominee for governor, suggested that the abortion debate shouldn’t be reduced to the culture war.  It was a question of whether some women will end up in poverty if forced to carry unwanted pregnancies. The religious-right ridiculed her for reducing a matter of morality to an economic outcome.

All the ridicule didn’t change the fact that Abrams was right.

On the day of the election, exit polls showed that for half of voters under 50, abortion was more important than the economy in battleground states.

The Republicans reclaimed control of the House by a razor-thin margin, but the “red wave” that was supposed to derail the president’s party never materialized. Matt Birk, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Minnesota, who lost on election day, spoke for the entire religious-right when he said, “If we lost because of abortion, an issue that was not on the ballot, if we lost because I believe every life has dignity, I’m OK with that.”

But the non-religious-right wasn’t OK with that and knew the “red wave” was aborted the moment a 10-year-old rape victim had to cross state lines.

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