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Abortion Bans are Not Doing the GOP Any Favors

I don't think it's an accident that one year after the Dobbs decision, roughly zero women have been prosecuted for obtaining an abortion.

Not that this is cause for celebration. There is nothing good about that decision, and its effects continue to ripple through the culture in destructive, completely unnecessary ways.

Too many women have already been forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. Too many women with pregnancy complications have nearly died for lack of medical attention from doctors fearing prosecution and imprisonment. Too many women have had to resort to obtaining abortion pills by clandestine means, leaving them in legal, as well as medical, jeopardy.

But the fact that no woman has actually been punished for aborting a fetus is indicative of the range and magnitude of the problems now confronting red state governments as they try to implement their forced-birth laws.

They passed these laws, unencumbered by the thought process, and they're now faced with an unchecked proliferation of unintended, though entirely predictable, consequences — medical, legal, and administrative — all of which are a drain on state resources.

Beyond that, the reputations of these benighted states are plummeting, as doctors flee in pursuit of more rational medical careers in more rational states. It's part of a general brain drain, with teachers, lawyers, technicians, and educated professionals of all kinds abandoning what they see as a moral and intellectual wasteland.

But the most immediate consequences — the ones most top-of-mind for Republican officials — are political.

Republicans never really wanted Roe overturned, no matter how loudly they demanded it. Their shrill anti-abortion rhetoric was always a scam, a perennial promise they could make to the misogynists and religious cranks in their base, safe in the knowledge that they'd never have to keep that promise. It was the go-to issue, guaranteed to get gullible rubes to the polls, and there was only one thing that could screw it up: overturning Roe.

The rest is history.

Suddenly, in just one year, red-state Republicans have been hit by a backlash so fierce, it poses a dire threat to their electoral prospects for the foreseeable future. There are very few segments of the population happy about these new laws.

Suddenly, there are large and growing numbers of lifelong Republicans totally pissed off, including millions of angry women who grew up with a full set of reproductive rights, and who can't help but wonder what other rights these thugs might take away.

Suddenly, the composition of single-issue voters has been flipped on its head. They're now voting vehemently in favor of abortion rights, and vehemently against Republicans.

And as if the politics weren't ugly enough for the GOP, the actual  implementation of these forced-birth policies is at least as fraught.

Because it's not at all clear that the new laws can be enforced in any practical manner. Remember, these are states that struggle to fund their own schools, yet they'll now have to muster the resources to investigate, arrest, prosecute, try, and imprison this new type of criminal they've created.

How do they pay for it? How much money do they divert to the policing of women's bodies? How many cyber experts do they want to hire to stop the online flow of abortion pills? How many lawyers do they want to recruit to fight off the lawsuits coming from all directions — activist groups, blue states, federal agencies — and where do they get the money?

As the lack of prosecutions would suggest, enforcement is not yet a big priority, especially given the political hazards of engaging on the issue. Beyond the bombastic posturing and faux rectitude, there can't be much appetite for taking ordinary women away from their families and throwing them in prison.

And speaking of faux rectitude, let's remember the solemn promises made by Republicans as they were passing these hideous bans. They swore up and down they would ramp up support for family services and healthcare. They vowed they would make it easy to turn women into mothers — ready or not.

As Bill Cassidy, idiot senator from Louisiana, put it, “Being pro-life means being pro-mothers, pro-babies, and pro-healthy futures.” 

So you'd think they would immediately enact paid family and medical leave, right? You'd think they would jump on evidence-based programs that reduce pregnancy-related deaths and child poverty. You'd think, at the very least, they would accept the Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act, which would put a ton federal money in their hands and make healthcare more accessible to mothers and children.

But, of course, they've done none of these things. They never intended to. They all claim to protect the unborn, but they won't lift a finger to protect the born. They will never invest in their constituencies, until those constituencies understand how badly they've been scammed. Which could be never.

Meanwhile, abortion pills are making their way to many — though not nearly enough — of the women who need them. The legal environment surrounding them remains ambiguous, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Women's organizations are taking advantage of the ambiguity. They have mobilized all over the world to keep these pills accessible, and it will be hard to interdict the supply coming from Mexico, India, and the Netherlands, not to mention from activist groups in blue states. Yes, the litigation around the interstate transport of abortion pills will be fierce, but it will take years to resolve, while in the meantime there will be a brisk business in meeting the insatiable demand for them.

If forced-birth states ever decide to enforce the new laws, they will soon be playing an expensive game of whack-a-mole, as women explore — openly or clandestinely — the legal, semi-legal, and outright illegal workarounds that are increasingly available to them.

Not surprisingly, any Republican with political ambitions is desperate to change the subject, something Democrats must not let them do. Because while the Dobbs decision is an absolute disaster for humanity, it is, for Democrats, the gift that keeps on giving.

Both parties understand that abortion is an electoral time bomb. Strangely, it's Republicans who seem determined to light the fuse. Stand back.

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