Tuesday, June 15, 2021
By Fallon Parker (June 15, 2021)
With the Supreme Court’s decision to take up Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the constitutional right to an abortion hangs in the balance. Since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has held that bans on abortion before fetal viability (around 24 weeks) are unconstitutional. Dobbs involves a Mississippi law that outlaws abortions at just 15 weeks. As the Court prepares to hear Dobbs pro-choice advocates and attorneys must start to plan for a possible post-Roe world.
Without Roe as a federal stopgap to prevent state legislatures from adopting anti-abortion legislation, the ability to obtain an abortion will vary greatly from state to state. The Center for Reproductive Rights predicts that as many as 30 states will either enact laws prohibiting abortion or already have trigger laws in place that will automatically ban abortion if Roe is struck down.
In a post-Roe world, protection of abortion rights will move squarely into the political arena. A long term strategy of passing laws that support people exercising their full range of reproductive choices, including abortion, will require significant political organizing in all states. An organizing platform focused on electing pro-choice Democrats and progressives would supplement the work that reproductive justice advocates are already doing in their communities and could provide the pro-abortion movement with the momentum to maintain abortion rights in a post-Roe world.
As of November 2020, and due to a 40 year effort on the part of the GOP, Republicans control 30 state legislatures and Democrats control 18. This political dynamic will have far reaching consequences for abortion rights in a post-Roe era and for reproductive justice overall. Anti-abortion legislation is trending all over the country and includes bills that ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected (typically around six weeks into the pregnancy). These same states have launched legislative attacks on the right to economic security, safety, and participation in democracy. In the past six months 14 states made it harder to vote, ten states adopted laws targeting transgender folks, six states allowed people to carry guns without permits, and almost two dozen states voted to reject the federal unemployment benefits in President Biden’s stimulus package.
Part of this political success in state government can be attributed to the GOP’s consistent messaging, including their anti-abortion message. At least while Roe is still intact, Republicans have an “intensity advantage” in the PR war. Their strategy of staking the alleged moral high ground on the issue of abortion has been, unfortunately, effective at putting Democrats and pro-abortion advocates on the defensive and helped the GOP to coalesce local political power.
However, there are bright spots on the horizon. Democrats and reproductive justice advocates were motivated by Stacey Abrams’ success in turning the traditionally Republican state of Georgia blue in 2020. Much of that success, according to Abrams, can be attributed to over ten years of clear messaging and strong local organizing from the state Democratic party and its allies. Democrats, progressives, and reproductive justice advocates around the country are hoping to build on that success. The Democratic National Committee is investing over $23 million in state parties for the 2022 midterm elections, including Democratic parties in historically red states. Organizations like Run for Something, Swing Left, Emerge, Indivisible, and Vote Pro Choice are recruiting and supporting progressive candidates running for local office. Progressive groups have taken a page out of the anti-abortion playbook and drafted model pro-choice legislation for local elected officials to rely on.
All of these political strategies will be crucial to abortion access in a post-Roe world and will serve to supplement the grassroots work reproductive justice advocates have been doing all along.