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‘Never’ Abortion vs. ‘Whenever’ Abortion

Expect states to pass restrictive or permissive laws that diverge from most voters’ views.
May 5, 2022
Never Abortion vs Whenever Abortion | Not My Party with Tim Miller

[Editor’s note: Watch Not My Party every week on Snapchat.]

Desi Lydic on The Daily Show: Women’s rights are being burned to the goddamn ground.

Woman being interviewed: Abortion is murder, and I feel that way, period.

Tim Miller: Uh-oh, looks like another culture war just dropped.

Man being interviewed: Finally, Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

Woman in car: Hey, abortion is health care; go f*** yourself.

Miller: This is “Not My Party,” brought to you by The Bulwark. A draft ruling overturning Roe v. Wade was released in an astonishing leak from the Supreme Court, which had protected abortion rights for over a half century.

Woman: That’s pretty bad.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm in Mad Men): Yes. Yes, it is.

Miller: If the leaked decision holds—Chief Justice John Roberts said it was “authentic” but not “final”—it will envelop our country in a divisive red-vs.-blue culture war: “never” abortion or “whenever” abortion.

But before we get to the politics of this, I want to level-set with y’all on two things. Number one: As a dude doing the show, I want to recognize the risks this will pose for vulnerable women, particularly those in low-income and conservative communities who are dealing with unwanted pregnancies and other healthcare issues. Some of the stories that come from this will be horrific, and we can’t ignore it.

Woman being interviewed: Imagine a 12-year-old having to carry her father’s child. And that’s a child having a child.

Miller: Number two: I also don’t want to obscure my deeply held conviction that babies who’d be viable outside the womb also deserve protection. I’ve sat with pregnant moms who, for whatever reason, were unable to parent their baby. We’ve looked at the ultrasound together. In that room, the decision was so heavy because we knew that the life kicking around inside her had value, too. So, as we dive into the politics of this, it’s important to me that we provide some space for talking about abortion that respects the dignity of everyone involved in these heartrending circumstances. Because this debate gets caricatured into a war where everyone on one side is baby-killers and everyone on the other side is sexist monsters who want to control women. But this dichotomy actually obscures the truth about how Americans have consistently felt about abortion for generations. Ready for this? Most Americans think abortion should be legal in some cases and illegal in others. “Sometimes” abortion used to be a common stance among politicians. Bill Clinton described it as—

Bill Clinton: “. . . safe and legal, but rare.”

Miller: —but today, almost no politicians in either party hold that popular position. So if this ruling comes down as written, it will result in most states passing wildly unpopular bills that almost nobody supports except rabid partisans. Blue states will enshrine abortion rights into the law until the moment of birth. Even friend of “Not My Party” Jared Polis is doing that—but only 13 percent of Americans agree with this “whenever” abortion policy. Meanwhile, red states will ban abortion starting at six weeks, or maybe earlier. In fact, 13 have already passed trigger laws that ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and 9 of those do not provide exceptions even in the case of rape or incest.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott: Texas will work tirelessly . . . [to] eliminate all rapists from the streets.

Miller: Now, the government forcing a woman to carry her rapist’s child to term in the early stages of a pregnancy without offering any support is both monstrous and wildly unpopular.

The Metatron (Alan Rickman in Dogma): —to say the least.

Miller: Now, these competing extreme laws won’t impact women equally. The vast majority that would be affected by these laws are in red states. A 2015 CDC study showed 91 percent of abortions took place in the first 13 weeks, which the new first-trimester bans would restrict. So, what will these diverging paths of “never” abortion versus “whenever” abortion mean for the midterms? Well, it will certainly motivate the lackadaisical Democratic base, which should provide a boost, but it’s not yet clear how much of one. This comes during a stormy time when Americans are reckoning with record-high inflation and a rocky economy. So, it’s not as much of a gimme that the average voter will motivate on this one issue, as some Democrats hope. What we do know is that a raucous culture war is upon us, and the impact of that is yet to come. When the ruling officially comes down next month, we’ll circle back and address the fallout.

Shrek: Grab your torch and pitchforks.

Miller: We’ll see you next week for more “Not My Party.”

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.

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