Anti-Choice Extremists are Planning an Unprecedented Attack on Roe v. Wade

For years, the anti-choice movement has worked to chip away at our constitutional right to access abortion. They have enacted laws designed to shut down abortion clinics, instituted biased counseling and mandatory delays, restricted insurance coverage for abortion procedures, and more — all with the clear intent to make it impossible to access abortion.

Now, these extremists are continuing their nonstop attack on abortion rights by passing ban after ban in states across the country — but their strategy has changed. They’re no longer focused on snowballing various healthcare burdens into making abortion inaccessible. These anti-choice zealots want to overturn Roe v. Wade — and ban abortion outright.

In just the first three months of 2018, anti-choice politicians introduced nearly 350 anti-choice restrictions regarding abortion and birth control in 37 states. Some states, like Iowa, Kentucky, and Mississippi, have passed anti-choice legislation that they know is blatantly unconstitutional. These politicians know the laws will be immediately challenged in court by pro-choice advocates — in fact, that’s exactly what they want.

Anti-choice politicians and the extremist groups that prop them up are done hiding their intention to cut off our access to affordable, quality healthcare. They’re openly bragging about it.

Iowa state Senator Rick Bertrand was perfectly clear about the intentions of Iowa’s extremist abortion ban, which would cut off abortion access at as early as 6 weeks of pregnancy, when he said, “I believe this bill will be a vehicle that will ultimately provide change and provide the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. There’s nothing hidden about the agenda.” Likewise, South Carolina Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey was transparent about Republican hopes for the state’s bill to ban 97% of all abortion procedures: “It’s designed to give the court an opportunity to revisit Roe v. Wade.”

The blatant attacks on Roe don’t stop at the state level, either. When Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives proposed a federal ban on nearly all abortion without exceptions for rape or incest, bill sponsor Representative Steve King stated, “I wrote the heartbeat to go before the court at the next appointment at the Supreme Court.”

So why have anti-choice activists changed their strategy? The answer is simple: Trump.

Before the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, attacks on abortion mostly focused on increasing the cumulative burden of accessing it by enacting restrictions like TRAP laws and mandatory ultrasounds. But with anti-choice politicians’ newfound power to stack the courts with ideologically favorable judges, they now believe they have a shot at fully criminalizing abortion. Before 2016, many mainstream anti-choice organizations strategically opposed extreme bans because they feared that the Supreme Court would again uphold Roe v. Wade once the laws were challenged. The rhetoric surrounding Ohio’s 2011 attempt to ban almost all abortion procedures, for example, looked very different than the attacks we’re seeing today. Just seven years ago, the National Right to Life Campaign had one of its own legal counselors testify against the bill, and Ohio Right to Life Executive Director Mike Gonidakis, fearing a Supreme Court challenge, even encouraged his fellow anti-choice activists to oppose the bill: “Despite noble aspirations, there is no scenario under which the heartbeat legislation will be upheld by any court.”

But now, with Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and the very real possibility of another lifetime appointment by Trump — conceivably in the coming months — anti-choice extremists see this as the chance they’ve been waiting for to strip the protections of Roe v. Wade and push a nationwide abortion ban. The words of anti-choice Ohio state Representative Ron Hood are all too clear about their chilling strategy: “One flip of a Supreme Court justice, and revisiting Roe v. Wade looks very, very promising.”

Control of Congress and the Oval Office means that anti-choice Republicans have the power to confirm Supreme Court justices and federal court judges alike, both of which are lifetime appointments and would have a huge impact on our right to choose if or when to start a family. President Trump has already appointed an unprecedented number of federal judges, with 140 vacancies still available. Experts estimate that by 2019, Trump’s judicial nominees will be participating in over 15,000 federal court decisions each year. These lifetime appointments mean that our federal court system — and our rights — could be irreparably damaged for generations. It also means that Roe v. Wade is in danger, with anti-choice activists setting their sights on it by passing numerous abortion bans across the country that could ultimately overturn the landmark Supreme Court case.

One of Donald Trump’s biggest campaign promises was to stack the courts with anti-choice judges that he believed would fulfill the far-right’s obsession with overturning Roe v. Wade, and he’s making good on that promise. Every day, we’re fighting to oppose these extremist nominations and elect pro-choice lawmakers who will stand up and defend Roe when anti-choice nominees are put in front of the Senate.

We are a proud part of the 7 in 10 Americans who support Roe v. Wade. When we say #CourtsMatter, it’s because women’s lives are at stake. When we oppose Trump’s anti-choice judicial nominees, it’s because we know that families deserve qualified, unbiased judges serving on our federal benches. When we support candidates for office who are champions for reproductive freedom, it’s because we know that winning back control of Congress has never been more important. It’s time to vote like your life and your rights depend on it, because for many of us, it does.

NARAL Pro-Choice America is fighting for reproductive freedom for every body.