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Abortion, Unlike In 2022, Won't Save The Dems In November

Democrats are elevating the issue, hoping it can neutralize Biden's failures.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks on reproductive freedom at El Rio Neighborhood Center in Tucson, Arizona, on April 12, 2024. Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Thomas More, a 16th-century English lawyer, judge, and social philosopher, famously said in his 1534 book, Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, that "a drowning man will clutch at a straw."

He could well be talking about today's Democrats who are willing to do anything to save their sinking ship. The straw, of course, is the issue of abortion, which worked well for them in 2022 after a rare strategic leak from an activist at the Supreme Court in April of that year, followed by the Dobbs decision that outlawed constitutional protections guaranteed in Roe v. Wade. 

Although the Democrats lost the House in 2022, the GOP victory was only marginal, showing the power of abortion as an electoral issue. With frequent retirements by Republican In Name Only (RINO) legislators since then, the GOP currently has a precarious one-seat majority. 

Fast-forward to this week, and the abortion issue was chugging along without much media coverage. The press has been consumed by foreign policy fallouts of the Biden administration, in particular, the way history clocked six months of war in Gaza with no end in sight. The humanitarian disaster of innocent women and children facing the prospect of famine has energized the left wing of the Democratic party. It is threatening Biden's reelection chances in Michigan, a critical swing state with a sizable Muslim population. Complicating matters were Israel's airstrikes against Iranian Quds Force and Revolutionary Guard leaders in Damascus, a vow that Iran would retaliate, and the administration's warning that Americans in Israel are at physical risk.

Suddenly, the Democrats saw an opening to restoke the abortion issue when two separate storylines broke.

First, President Trump fired the opening salvo by saying on his Truth Social network that he would not take a position on a federal law limiting or permitting abortion, leaving it all to the states, just like the Dobbs decision elegantly said. It was a brilliant move from a disciplined Trump, who, unlike in 2016, 2020, and 2022, is listening to senior professional campaign officials who are not his family. (Had he hired the same campaign officials in 2020 who are running his campaign now, he likely would have won in a landslide.) 

Second, Arizona was in the news again. The Arizona Supreme Court, interpreting the Dobbs decision, breathed new life into a long-dormant 1864 law that banned all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The law is so old that it was enacted 58 years before Arizona even became a state, in 1912.  

The Democrats pounced on the developments, seeing that the straw became thicker and more robust. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Arizona on Friday to hold Trump responsible for the Arizona Supreme Court decision with a simple message: "Donald Trump did this." In the Democrats' telling, Trump appointed a list of conservative justices to the Supreme Court, which outlawed Roe v. Wade. But overturning Roe is not the same as outlawing abortion.

Recall that in Dobbs, the state of Mississippi sought to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The critical issues in the case were whether the state's ban on pre-viability abortions was constitutional under the Supreme Court's previous rulings in Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. By a 6-3 decision in Dobbs, the Roberts Court overturned Roe v. Wade and reasoned that abortion, much like most life's events - like birth, driving, marriage, divorce, and death - should be governed by states. 

Conservatives generally view the Dobbs decision as a victory for their cause. Overturning Roe v. Wade had been a rallying cry for them for decades. They believe that the decision affirms the right of states to regulate abortion and to protect the unborn, which they see as a fundamental human right. Conservatives argue that the decision is a victory for the pro-life movement and a step towards a society that values and protects all human life, including that of the unborn. 

While 14 deeply conservative states have tightened abortion restrictions, liberal states have significantly promoted abortion access, such as California and New Jersey, where abortion is legal until viability. This was the point of Dobbs. Each state could do what it saw fit. [According to the National Institutes of Health, fetal viability refers to the time a fetus can survive outside the uterus. A viable fetus is contrasted with a fetus that cannot survive outside of the pregnancy]. 

During last year's debates, many GOP contenders forgot the elegant nature of the Dobbs decision and began to envision a federal role in regulating abortion. Only North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis agreed that the matter has now irreversibly and correctly moved to the states, a position that Trump, as the Republican nominee, has now wisely taken.  

The problem with the current Democratic attack is that nearly two years after Dobbs, Americans now know that the Supreme Court did not outlaw abortions in America but sent the matter to the states in an ode to the supremacy of the Tenth Amendment.

In 2024, Americans will elect a president, not just the House and a third of the Senate. Even for younger voters for whom abortion could be a significant electoral issue, many more crucial problems remain, such as inflation, very high interest rates, the rising federal debt, the administration's positions on the Israel-Gaza war, illegal immigration, crime in the inner cities, and a general sense that the country is on the wrong track. Biden's approval numbers have hovered around 40% since the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal.

2024 is a referendum election on Biden and the Democrats. It is not 2022, and even the abortion question will not neutralize Biden's troubles. Nice try, Kamala Harris.

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