Roe Reversal: The Republicans Are Realizing How Badly They've F**cked Themselves
Watching the Republican party at-large turn tail over the three-ish months since Roe V Wade was overturned, only one question comes to mind: that didn't take long, now did it?
Being a witness to the new, post-Roe Hellscape that has unfolded in America during 2022 has been depressing. Since the landmark case for women's reproductive rights was slaughtered by the judiciary watching down from their ivory towers in Washington, state-by-state we have seen the dominoes of unintended side-effects fall. From stories of sexually assaulted 10-year-old girls being forced into driving hundreds of miles out of state to rid their bodies of their attacker's offspring, to Georgia allowing tax deductions for fetuses, the headlines have been awash with escalating insanities on the reg. Even with these catastrophes, it must be noted that the most surprising unintended consequences to come from a post-Roe world is how many Republican political leaders have completely overhauled a keystone of their morality (the pro-life movement), once it was found that shoving your morals down the throats of others may cost you an election.
To be honest, if politics were a viewable sport like tennis, then the rapidity of the flip-flopping done concerning abortion rights by the GOP would crack vertebrae for anyone watching closely. To understand why this about-face from both GOP candidates and incumbents might be the most stunning revelation to arise during this entire shitshow of lost reproductive rights, a brief bit of history may be in order.
It isn't an understatement to say Roe’s reversal completely changed the landscape of religion and politics in America. Prior to Roe being ruled on initially in 1973, Protestants had a much more "liberal" view when it came to abortions. Famous evangelist Billy Graham and Christianity Today’s first editor, Carl Henry, both opposed abortion but supported exceptions for rape, incest, and the life and health of the mother.
After Roe, “the conservative Protestant position on abortion became Catholicized,” said R. Marie Griffith, who oversees the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. This meant adopting the view that abortion was a sin and should not be allowed in any cases. In 1973, the same year as Roe, this belief turned into action when the group Baptists for Life was formed by Pastor Robert Holbrook.
The religious right was then off to the races.
Over the decades we’ve seen people like Jerry Fallwell claim his organization, the Moral Majority, had registered four million first-time voters for Reagan within the first couple of years of their existence in the early 80s. In every presidential election since, the anti-abortion alliance has registered tens of millions of Republican voters. It should come as no surprise that by 2022, these groups have become wholly intertwined.
New groups, new presidents, new religious leaders. Rinse and repeat for 50 years until they got what they wished for. Yet, as all have seen from the cliché: though they all got what they wanted, it came at a price. This specific price comes in the form of watching many of their political aspirations be torn asunder due to their hardline stances.
Earlier in 2022, the Republican candidates for various elections nationwide seemed to be clear when it came to their stances on abortion—none at all, with a side of zero exceptions. The Minnesota Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Scott Jensen said in March, “I would try to ban abortion.” A month later, he was even stronger in his resolve by making it a promise. Responding to Governor Tim Walz’s (D) claim that Jensen and his running mate supported banning abortions, Jensen said: “No kidding, Sherlock. You’re darn right we do.”
This is just one example.
The Republican’s favorite Reality TV doctor turned Pennsylvania Senate Candidate Mehmet Oz appeared to have a concrete notion when it came to whether abortion was infanticide or not in May this year when an audio recording from the Daily Beast was released. “I do believe life starts at conception,” he said, adding: “If life starts at conception, why do you care what stage our hearts start beating at? It’s, you know—it’s still murder if you were to terminate a child, whether their heart’s beating or not.”
Even in our backyard, it seems we have candidates who once held a very strong position.
Before Colorado’s 8th Congressional Republican primary of 2022, when answering whether she would allow abortion under any “extenuating circumstances,” Barbara Kirkmeyer not only responded “no,” she proceeded to brag about banning Plan B.
And then the red tornado known as Kansas came and blew all their houses in.
When the results came back showing that Kansas—one of the reddest states in the nation—voted to keep abortion legal in the state with a victory of 59% to 41%, it sent shockwaves through the Republican party at large. "Anti-abortion politicians put this amendment on the primary ballot with the goal of low voter turnout," said Emily Wales of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. Basically, the GOP felt this was a slam-dunk issue when it came to their conservative constituents and used reproductive rights as fodder to help ensure a low voter turnout. They quickly found out they were wrong.
Of course, for anyone who is actually paying attention to the numbers, and not the voices in the GOP echo chamber, this result in Kansas isn’t really that surprising.
Americans overwhelmingly would like to be able to vote on an abortion measure on their state ballot, an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll found. The survey was taken shortly after the stunning defeat in Kansas and was done to see if the rest of the nation felt the same way when it came to abortion rights.
Seven in 10 say they would support using a ballot measure to decide abortion rights in their state, an idea backed across party lines, by 73% of Democrats, 77% of Republicans, and 67% of Independents.
It seems people want the choice to do with their bodies as they please and definitely want a say in the matter on a legislative level as well.
Once the national polling results seemed to confirm that Kansas wasn’t just a one-off, those same Republican hopefuls I mentioned above decided that some house cleaning was in order.
As recently as September of this year, the aforementioned Minnesota candidate Jensen has somewhat softened on the notion of abortion rights. He’s done this by running an ad stating: “In Minnesota, [abortion] is a protected constitutional right, and no governor can change that. And I’m not running to do that.”
He isn’t alone.
At a news conference in September, candidate Oz said, “There should not be criminal penalties for doctors or women regarding abortion.” His campaign has also said he “supports exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.”
And finally, since Colorado’s Kirkmeyer clinched the Republican nomination, she’s desperately tried to walk back her radical stances by deleting anti-abortion language and footage of her speaking at an anti-reproductive rights rally earlier this year from her campaign website. In response to the public outcry over Kirkmeyer’s cowardly and cynical backtracking, Barb’s spokesperson insisted her website simply went through a refresh to reflect the issues that matter most to Coloradans.
So, given the full picture, yes, it really is surprising to see this pair of decades-long bedfellows of politics and religion becoming so fractured; enough to cause shock, at the very least. But as we know, whenever power gets involved, humans are going to be human—power is too illustrious a mistress.
Do I honestly believe that once these conservative candidates get elected, they are somehow going to turn over a new leaf? No. Power always begets power, and both political leaders and religious leaders know this. At worst, they will make some begrudging comments in the press before they kiss and make up.
And keeping this level of cynicism close to my heart is the point. If you are like me (someone who truly values body autonomy), then it’s important to never let those kinds of candidates get elected. If they are this flexible when it comes to a core principle of theirs, imagine what else they’ll be willing to sacrifice in the name of retaining power. Though the conservatives may have won the battle of reproductive rights thus far in the courts, Kansas shows us that they’ve also woken a sleeping giant.
The numbers are on our side. We can’t let them go to waste.