Republicans won’t stop until abortion is banned across America. And it could be | Moira Donegan

Republicans want to ban abortion nationwide, and they have the nerve to claim that this is a compromise. This week, Senator Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina, introduced a bill to ban all abortions everywhere in the United States at 15 weeks. Abortion is already banned before 15 weeks in 15 states.

It is banned outright in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Indiana’s ban on abortion went into effect just this Wednesday. It is banned at six weeks – in practice a total ban – in Georgia and Ohio. West Virginia passed an abortion ban, too. It won’t be the last.

The Republican national 15-week ban that Graham has introduced will do nothing to help the women in these states, who will not have their rights restored. It’s not a floor for abortion legality: it is a ceiling. The goal is to ban abortion in blue states. Currently, 58% of American women of childbearing age live in states that are “hostile or extremely hostile” to abortion rights, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Republicans want to raise that to 100%.

One way that we know that the Republicans will ban abortion nationally as soon as they get the chance is because they keep saying that they want to. This is the sixth time Graham has introduced a national abortion ban bill. The previous five were, by his standards, less extreme: they all banned abortion at 20 weeks. That Graham has pushed his ban back earlier in pregnancy is a sign of the rapidly lowering standards for American women.

We’re now told that 15 weeks is a compromise. But 15 weeks is not a compromise. It is the very beginning of the second trimester – before fetal abnormalities and other health risks are detected, before many women in red states, burdened by poverty and travel and the medically needless burdens imposed by their states, can get an abortion at all. And there is no stage of pregnancy where a woman deserves the indignity of a ban. There is no point at which she becomes unworthy of controlling her own life and health; there is no point at which a legislator knows more about what’s best for her than she does. Any ban is unacceptable; a national ban, like the kind that the Republicans are now pursuing, is abhorrent.

This was always their plan. The anti-choice movement, and their servants in the Republican party, have long understood the overturning of Roe v Wade – the long-desired goal that they achieved this summer, on 24 June, when the US supreme court issued its decision in Dobbs v Jackson – as just the opening salvo in their assault on women’s rights.

Their real goal is a national ban on abortion, beginning with the kind of legislation introduced this week by Graham. They have made no secret of this: anti-choice groups announced their plan for a national ban even before the Dobbs decision was officially released. They don’t have the votes for it now, but they could get the votes in the future. And when they do, a combination of factors, including pressure from fundraisers and their base and what seems to be a genuine hatred for abortion and the freedom that it provides to women, combine to make a political certainty: the next time Republicans hold both houses of US Congress and the White House, they will ban abortion nationwide.

It is time for liberal Americans, and all American women, to face this reality: there will soon be no safe states, no place in America where abortion is legal. In the future, we will come to see this horrible era – the time after Roe fell, but before abortion was banned nationally – as an interregnum, when the suffering and loss enforced on women by abortion bans was only confined to red states.

As horrible as this state of affairs is, one day we will look back on it fondly. As women bleed for days, and little girls are pushed out of school, and thousands of dreams are abandoned to forced birth – even these, eventually, might come to seem like the good old days.

Because though the Republicans will certainly ban abortion nationally at their first opportunity, they may not even need to wait for an electoral victory to do so. A group calling itself Catholics for Life has already asked the supreme court to declare fetuses and embryos to be persons under the 14th amendment, a move that would grant them constitutional rights. From there, “it’s a short step to saying that laws allowing abortion are unconstitutional because they deny equal protection to those persons that are unborn human beings,” the Berkeley Law School dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, told Ms magazine. “I believe that there may be a majority on the Court to take that position.” The unelected, lifetime-appointed judges on the court could extend their assertion in Dobbs that it’s legal to ban abortion, and instead say that it’s actually illegal to allow it. To get that outcome, the Republicans don’t need to win even one more vote.

These are the stakes of every election now, for the rest of our lives. A national abortion ban will be on the ballot every time Americans vote for congressmen and senators; it will be on the ballot every time they vote for president. In previous years, while Roe was still in place, voting for a governor or state legislatures could affect practical abortion access within a state quite substantially. Red states were able to cut funding, impose labyrinthine requirements, up the cost for patients and impose uniquely onerous burdens on providers. But Roe preserved a bare-bones floor for abortion rights: no state could ban abortion before viability.

Now, any state – or the United States at the federal level – can ban abortion as early as they want. There is no bottom, and Republicans are determined to keep pushing further and further back, dragging the rights and dignity of American women further and further down into the dirt. This is the possibility that we have to resist every time we vote. It’s also the possibility that Democrats accept – every day that they do not expand the court.

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