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Republicans Need to Figure Out the Abortion Issue

A Commentary By Brian Joondeph

Abortion continues to be a political hot potato 50 years after the controversial Roe v. Wade decision where the U.S. Supreme Court “legislated” a Constitutional “right” to abortion.

This ruling went against the Tenth Amendment which stated that powers not specifically mentioned in the Constitution are reserved to the states, through the people or their elected representatives.

Last year the US Supreme Court, through the Dobbs ruling reversed Roe in keeping with the Tenth Amendment stating, “The authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”

Some states took full advantage of their newly delegated rights, with Oregon, New Jersey, New Mexico, Maine, and Colorado deciding that elective abortion is permitted up until birth.

This is far more permissive than the law for the past half century under Roe, which prevented state regulation of abortion during the first trimester, or about 14 weeks, with allowances for second trimester abortions related to maternal health, and third trimester abortions only when necessary to save the life or health of the mother.

How does this compare to other progressive countries, particularly the “enlightened” European Union? Abortion on demand is permitted from 12 to 14 weeks for most countries, comparable to Roe, but not a free-for-all as in Colorado.

Specifically, Spain and Belgium allow abortion up to 14 weeks with Italy, Norway, and Switzerland up to 12 weeks.

The recent elections demonstrated how Republicans still cannot figure out the abortion issues. An example is the Virginia legislature turning Democrat due to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed 15-week limit on abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the mother.

The defeated Virginia proposal is not much different than the Roe decision which Democrats had wanted left in place. Virginia previously limited abortion to the first 26 weeks and the ballot proposal would have changed that to 15 weeks, basically the first trimester.

Democrats, as usual, dominated the messaging: “Liberals ran ads attacking ‘MAGA extremists’ who want to ban abortion. Never mind that Mr. Youngkin proposed a prohibition at 15 weeks with exceptions," hardly a ban. Democrats also outspent Republicans by at least two-to-one.

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel also declined the Virginia GOP’s request for funds to match the DNC spending. Perhaps some additional spending would have overcome the few thousand vote loss. One wonders if the RNC elites are actually pro-abortion?

I suspect elected Democrats and Republicans don’t really care about abortion other than as a political wedge issue and for fundraising.

Democrats say Republicans want to “jail women who have an abortion” and Republicans call Democrats “baby killers”. Both claims are followed by “Please send me money to stop this abomination”.

National Review, taking a pause from Trump derangement syndrome, insists that the Republicans must compromise on abortion, taking more of a Democrat position. They tout presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s push to find a “national consensus” on abortion, and that the GOP should not push for federal abortion ban.

Good luck finding a “national consensus.” The Democrats want no limits while the Republicans want sensible limits or no abortions at all. What’s the middle ground?

Virginia was voting on “middle ground” Roe-like limits. This wasn’t a federal ban, despite media gaslighting. A federal ban would never pass the current Congress and a Democrat president, so the concept is a nonstarter. It is also contradictory to the spirit of the Dobbs decision, which turned abortion over to each individual state.

The country is divided and it’s either a compromise or continuous battle that Republicans will in most cases lose based on the narrative. The left accuses Republicans of wanting to ban all abortions and jail any woman who had one. The media piles on and Republicans say nothing in response, leaving Democrats to define the issue.

How do voters feel about a compromise?

A new Rasmussen Reports national survey finds that 52% of likely U.S. voters consider themselves pro-choice on the issue of abortion, while 42% percent say they are pro-life. Fifty percent believe “abortion is morally wrong most of the time.”

With a 50-50 split, good luck forming a “national consensus.”

Libertarians want to get government out of the abortion issue. Should government have no role in regulating abortions, letting women have the final say?

Does that then equate abortion to cosmetic plastic surgery or gender mutilation surgery, regulated only for minors but readily available for adults without limits?

Or is a total ban even effective? Illicit drugs are banned in America yet almost 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2022. Underage teenagers consume alcohol despite the law. Abortions would continue even if completely banned. Common sense and morality cannot be legislated.

Perhaps the best solution is for national level Republicans to not take on abortion and instead keep it a state issue, to be decided by elected representatives or better yet the voters through a ballot referendum. States can restrict all or no abortions, or anything in between.

With 50 states, most Americans can find a state in which to live, one which aligns with their values and beliefs. If they find abortion rules in their state intolerable, they are free to move to another state.

Let the Democrats make proposals at a state level and Republicans can simply say, “Let the people decide.” Maybe that’s a cop out but the current GOP approach, including national restrictions, without the GOP making their case, changing hearts, souls, and the culture, is doomed to fail.

If abortion is the hill Republicans want to die on, they will lose power at the national, state, and local level.  There goes any chance of fixing our myriad problems, including an open border, weaponized federal government, out of control spending, endless foreign wars, inflation, and other pressing concerns.

Abortion is ultimately a moral choice, which cannot be legislated in a free society. Fiddling over abortion while America burns on so many fronts is misplaced energy. Abortion is a sensitive issue on both sides and the Constitution provides a remedy for settling the issue, although to many an imperfect solution.

Republicans should make the case for life, changing hearts and minds. Otherwise, Democrats will simply use the issue as a club to beat hapless Republicans who have no sensible solutions.

Until or unless Republicans create a coherent message, their time and energy would be best focused on other pressing issues. The last several election cycles have made this clear. Taking the same approach over and over again expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

Brian C. Joondeph, M.D., is a physician and writer.

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