The Supreme Court’s decision in June that there is no constitutional right to an abortion has boosted support for Democrats. Democrats are now doing better in special elections than they did before the Supreme Court’s ruling, and they are doing better in those districts than they did in the 2020 election. Last night, they won the special election for Congress in New York’s 23rd Congressional district, even though Republicans outnumber Democrats by 4% in that district. If the current trend continues, Democrats will keep control of the U.S. Senate in the 2022 election, and perhaps the House of Representatives as well — unless Republican candidates stop talking about restricting first-trimester abortions, which antagonizes centrist voters.
As election analyst Ryan Matsumoto notes, “Democrats have now outperformed Biden’s numbers in each of the four U.S. House special elections since the Dobbs decision in June. #NE01 – Trump +15 -> R+5 #MN01 – Trump +10 -> R+4 #NY19 – Biden +1.5 -> D+2.2 #NY23 – Trump +11 -> R+6.”
Voters mostly oppose the Supreme Court’s decision in June that the federal Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion. That includes two-thirds of independent voters and a clear majority of all voters in swing states like Wisconsin, where the state’s Republican senator now trails slightly in public opinions taken since the Supreme Court’s ruling.
But most voters support banning virtually all abortions after 15 weeks (the vast majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester of pregnancy). Voters want to prohibit a minority of abortions (including late-term abortions that states were not allowed to prohibit under the Supreme Court’s 1973 decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton), but not most abortions.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization upheld a state law that banned most abortions after 15 weeks. Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act provides that “[e]xcept in a medical emergency or in the case of a severe fetal abnormality, a person shall not intentionally or knowingly perform . . . or induce an abortion of an unborn human being if the probable gestational age of the unborn human being has been determined to be greater than fifteen (15) weeks.”
The Supreme Court could simply have upheld that law, limiting abortion rights to the early stages of pregnancy. That would have been a popular decision, and the Democrats would have looked extreme when they criticized it, costing them seats in Congress and state legislatures.
But instead of just limiting abortion rights, the Supreme Court went much further, and said there is no federal constitutional right to an abortion at all. That was a very unpopular decision.
In many countries, the right to an abortion doesn’t extend beyond 15 weeks, and covers only early stages of pregnancy, when the fetus has no brain activity, can’t feel pain, and in some cases, doesn’t even have a heartbeat. At the time America was founded, states allowed abortion before “quickening” — so there was no ban on abortion before the fourth month of pregnancy at the earliest.
Abortion is largely prohibited after 14 weeks in France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Greece, and Spain. Many rights have to be exercised promptly, or not at all — which is why states can have filing deadlines for running for political office.
Instead of just emulating Europe and ruling that late-term abortions can be banned (contrary to its 1973 decision in Doe v. Bolton, which allowed abortionists to cite vague “emotional” or “familial” reasons for performing a third-trimester abotion), the Supreme Court went further, declaring that there is no constitutional right to an abortion at all, regardless of the stage of pregnancy. Chief Justice Roberts, in a concurring opinion joined by no other justice, urged the Court to simply uphold the Missippi law, without totally abolishing abortion rights. But the Court declined to issue such a limited ruling, and instead, entirely overturned the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which created the constitutional right to an abortion.
First trimester abortions are quite different than late term abortions. In the first trimester, the embryo does not think or have feelings, and feels no pain when it is aborted. So it is perfectly consistent to ban late-term abortions, while allowing first-term abortions.