WIll Voting on “Women’s Issues” Really Change Anything?

by Christopher O'Brien

It is often said that fear drives more voters than facts. And throughout this election we are all shutting off the TV and banging our heads against the wall wringing our hands of all the negative ads on TV. It seems to be worse than usual. Yet, one of the themes throughout the year has been ‘women’s issues’. Now, when President Obama or Chris Murphy or any other Democrat brings up “women’s issues”, we all know that they are not talking about the issues that most women have on the forfront in their minds: The economy, jobs, healthcare, education, childcare, faith or marriage. You know.. the the issues that we deal with almost every day. No, they are only talking about ONE issue: Abortion.

The fear that these candidates send is that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. Could it be? And what would that mean? What is the reality of how quickly, or how much impact your vote for a ‘anti-choice’ candidate make on this issue? Let’s talk about this in the proper context.

First, understand that politics is about legal matters. Court cases are about law and not medicine. Roe v. Wade was a legal case where the justices on the Supreme Court in 1973 had to derive the “right to choose” from the US Constitution. They did so by relying upon three different and seeminly unrelated Constitutional Amendments and when they created that “right”, they overturned the anti-abortion laws that existed in all 50 states at the time. If you are pro-choice, I urge you to one day read the Roe v. Wade case to understand how they did this.

I won’t get into how crafted their decision, but the important thing to take away from the case is that Roe turned abortion from a state issue into a national issue. This is very key for anyone who wants to overturn Roe to understand.

If Roe was to be overturned (and below I discuss how remote that would be), it is most likely it would be because the Court in 1973 overreached by makin it a national issue. Overturning Roe would simply send the issue back to the 50 states. Understanding today’s political climate, its likely to assume that states in the center and south of the nation would pass pro-life laws, and those on both coasts and the northeast would be almost entirely pro-choice. This would take years to occur since almost every state changed their laws since 1973 in order to conform to Roe’s decision.

So let’s say you voted for an “anti-choice” candidate this year. How could they overturn Roe? Is it a legitimate fear, or are you more inclined to consider other factors affecting your vote?

1) One or two of the 5 more liberal justices on the court would have to die or retire, creating a vacancy

2) The President might appoint a pro-life justice. In three Republican presidents (Reagan, Bush and Bush), several appointees have been liberal justices with different views than the President nominating them.

3) Now this is important: a particular court case would have to have similarities to the Roe case to adequately challenge it.

4) The Court is more inclined to define a sub-issue than the entire one. Also, the conservative leaning Chief Justice John Roberts is more inclined to defer remedies to state legislatures tahn to re-define laws by court order.

5) IF the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe, it would most likely then leave the issue up to the states. This means that all 50 states would decide how to handle abortion. Most states in the center of the country and South would pass pro-life legislation. Most northeastern and some West Coast states would probably be entirely pro-choice. Some states would allow some forms or instances of abortions during certain periods or would allow them with minor restrictions that they can already legislate today.

The only other route some pro-lifers may take is to pass a Constitutional Amendment. I don’t see that happening in the near future, unfortunately. THe country isn’t ready for it, and the political landscape – even with strong Republican wins tomorrow- doesn’t allow for it either.

So if you vote for a Republican – especially someone who IS pro-choice like Linda McMahon, or a man like Mitt Romney who once was pro-choice but has changed his view (none of us know why, but it may be interesting to find out), the likelihood that Roe v. Wade would be overturned in the next 4 years is very very slim.

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