Controversies that once seemed to be in the dustbin of history – inflation, gas prices, superpower friction – have recently resurfaced. Abortion is now added to this list. We offer our opinions on this sensitive and volatile issue and its impact on elections and legislation.
How did the quashing of Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court translate into national and local politics?
Pignanelli: “For half a century Roe has kept a political lid on this issue. You had groups of activists on each side. But this was not a central issue in the campaigns. — Jonathan Karl, ABC News
I remember very well when Roe v. Wade was made public in January 1973. The seventh and eighth graders at my parish primary/middle school in Holladay were ordered by teachers – Irish Catholic nuns – to kneel by our desks and pray. When we were fired, the nuns said they were joining a collective effort to reverse the decision. I did not understand that this was the start of a large-scale effort to overthrow established law. (But I still remember the pain in my knees.)
Recent polls indicate that this issue is stirring movement among voters. But whether it overcomes inflation and gas prices for priority at the polls remains an open question. Most politicians expect the GOP to regain control of the House, but with a narrow margin. However, polls reaffirm that a majority of Americans fall in the middle. So, in the fierce battles ahead in Congress and the legislatures, perceived overreach on either side (i.e., too restrictive or too expansive) could provoke backlash in November. Because this is an unprecedented situation, long-term forecasts are difficult.
Utah’s upcoming general election will not be affected. But over time, activists on both sides will demand statements of support in local government and legislative deliberations. The litmus tests will be applied aggressively in the 2024 conventions and primaries.
The court’s decision reaffirmed a fundamental lesson learned by millions of Catholics: never doubt serious nuns.
Webb: I want to point out, at the outset, that because I am not a woman, I hesitate to comment on something that is so deeply personal to women. However, I have heard many wise, thoughtful, and loving women make points with which I wholeheartedly agree. So I feel comfortable following their example.
I fully support the court’s bold and correct decision and do not believe it will be a major factor in the 2022 election.
But first, I hope we can all agree that with abortion banned in Utah for most pregnancies, we need to better help women avoid unwanted pregnancies, support them if they get pregnant, and provide assistance to mother and newborn when it arrives. If we support a culture of life, it means more than simply prohibiting abortion.
Second, there must be thoughtful exceptions to the ban on abortion. I agree with the position of Utah’s largest religious denomination: exceptions could include pregnancy resulting from rape and incest; when the life and health of the mother are seriously threatened; or the unborn baby has severe deformities that make it unable to survive beyond birth.
These guidelines are flexible enough to accommodate a number of complexities and nuances. Individual circumstances can be difficult and tragic, so abortion laws need ample leeway to accommodate these things.
But I strongly believe that society has an obligation to support life, to protect unborn babies from abortion on demand, abortion as a convenience. Angry abortion rights activists shout loudly about a woman’s right to control her body, but they never mention the little human growing inside her. No one on this side speaks for the baby.
And science is on the side of life. As we learn more about the development of unborn babies, we come to understand that they are small humans and medical advances help them become viable sooner and earlier in pregnancies.
Politically, this issue has energized the Democratic base and may impact some very close races. But that won’t save Democrats from big losses this year.
The court’s decision is likely to affect a variety of business and personal interests, including health insurance, employee relations, boycotts, privacy, and more. Will these factors have an impact on policy deliberations?
Pignanelli: In modern America, public policy debates on many issues are conducted through boycotts, investment/divestment demands, petitions, social media activity, and more. Expect the same treatment on this issue from both sides. Employer-based health insurance programs, especially among multistate companies, now have a new challenge. Privacy considerations about how the new laws are applied will ensue. As with other issues, these practical concerns will seep into political discussions and elections.
Webb: Despite strong voices to the contrary, society can adapt to this Supreme Court decision. Remember, the court did not prohibit abortion. He said the proper place to decide these difficult issues is with citizens and with whom they elect in Congress and state legislatures.
Abortion access will be a battle in the United States for the immediate future. Is an eventual peace or at least an impasse possible?
Pignanelli: Legislative deliberations, the resulting elections and likely initiative petitions will be emotional contests. Because each side has a legitimate point, no one-size-fits-all solution is on the horizon. But voter fatigue will demand a resolution which is not often tested.
Webb: The best possible outcome would be for people of good will, wisdom and integrity on both sides to come together, armed with a dose of humility and compassion, and reach compromise positions that protect life, include appropriate exceptions and support mothers and newborns.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and semi-retired small-scale farmer and political consultant. E-mail:[email protected].
Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist, and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah State Legislature. E-mail: [email protected].