Political backlash of an overturned Roe

TomDavisRep. Tom Davis, R-Va., has long been a rising star in Congress. Most outside of Washington know him for the “steroids in baseball” hearings and for his chairing the Congressional hearings on Hurricane Katrina.

He has his eyes on a Virginia senate seat and has said that he wants to run for president someday. As chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, he has immersed himself in the workings of government and is seen as a person who can be bipartisan and very ambitious.

So when I read this Washington Post story — on Davis’ opinion that the political backlash of an overturned Roe v. Wade would not be friendly to suburban Republicans like himself — I can see how the issue of abortion frightens politicians like Davis. They are not at all eager to see Roe overturned. It acts as a stopgap and keeps American politicians from taking a serious stand one way or another on the issue.

This is just another angle that journalists must concern themselves with when writing about abortion and the politics surrounding the issue.

Here’s the summary:

Reversal of the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide could produce an upheaval in U.S. politics and would put candidates who oppose abortion rights at risk of defeat in many parts of the country, a leading House Republican said yesterday.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, said the desire of GOP conservatives to see a newly constituted Supreme Court eventually overturn Roe v. Wade could produce a political backlash, particularly in the suburbs. “It would be a sea change in suburban voting patterns,” Davis said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Davis’s comments came days after the revelation that Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court, had written in a 1985 memo that he did not believe there was a constitutional right to abortion. Alito has since told senators that those views would not influence his actions if he is confirmed.

But the comments underscored the potential collision between the long-sought goal of religious and cultural conservatives to undo the court’s 1973 abortion rights decision and the political implications for the Republican Party’s aspirations of expanding its majorities in Congress and holding the White House after President Bush’s term ends.

This is not a new concern for moderate Republicans, or a new consolidating thought for liberal Democrats. A few months ago, I read an Atlantic piece on the positive impact of an overturned Roe for Democrats, but because the material is behind a subscriber-only firewall, you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

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  • Michael

    You make an important point. Although the conservative elites in the pundit class and the “movement” may want to see Roe overturned, that is not a position held by most Americans. For soccer moms in Tom Davis’ district–white, well-educated, affluent–while they may not approve of abortion, they also don’t want to the status quo upset.

    Overturning Roe may play well among the punditocracy and those who show up in Republican primaries, but it could cause a revolt in the suburbs and even the much ballyhooed exurbs.

  • http://www.jonswerens.com Jon Swerens

    Rachel Dratch, playing Harriet Miers on “Saturday Night Live,” may have said it best:

    “But Roe v. Wade is a constant problem within the Republican Party. I mean, on one hand, [grabbing Tina’s hand and slamming it on the desk] you have the Evangelicals who want to overturn Roe v. Wade forever, right? And then on the other hand, [lifting Tina’s hand and slamming it to the desk a second time] you have wealthy fiscal conservatives who need lots of safe, legal abortions for their slutty teenage daughters! [drinks some more]“

  • David

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but even IF Roe were overturned, wouldn’t that simply return the legality of abortion issue back to the States?

    While that would probably lead to restrictions and/or elimination of abortion in SOME States, it would probably not change ANYTHING in many States. Personally, I don’t see my State (CA) doing anything at all to restrict abortion at all (e.g. the majority of voters just defeated a ballot proposition that simply required parents to be INFORMED if their daughter wanted an abortion). For GR’s non-CA readers, in CA schools have to have parental permission to give their child an aspirin, but the school can take a girl to an abortion clinic without even notifying the parents.

  • Tom Breen

    The dirty little secret about abortion is that neither major party actually wants the current status quo changed. Democrats and Republicans both benefit from the way things currently are: it gives them both an issue to stir the base up with, while they don’t have to worry about any actual policy changes that would upset moderate voters. Anyone who thinks either party is likely to adopt a consistently pro-life position is engaging in wishful thinking.

  • Russ Pulliam

    It seems to me that the change would put the issue where it should be, in the legislative branch. It has been that way for most of the country’s history, except for 1973 to now.

  • Michael

    Well, school segregation and bans on interracial marriage were in the legislature too until the Supreme Court stepped in, so I am not sure that’s a terribly compelling argument. Was the issue resolved too early before a public consensus had formed? Well, maybe, but again the court often is “in front” of society on social issues.

    In 1973, 1/3 of the states has some form of legal abortion. That’s about the same point we were at with school segregation and interracial marriage when the Supreme Court stepped in.

  • http://shushan37.blogspot.com/ Salar

    I think David has the right of it. Barring a widespread revival you would only save a few lives of non-voting innocents.

    I hadn’t thought about it but if I had ~ this ‘controversy’ is exactly what I should expect to hear on the subject. from professional politicians. They want to keep their job.

    and the world keeps on spinning…

  • Soccer Mom

    So does that mean Tom Davis has been faking it when he votes pro-life? He has a 91% rating from National Right-to-Life.

  • Russ Pulliam

    Because the court is “in front” on this issue of abortion does not make them right. They may wind up behind the times, assuming progress is in the direction of protection of life, instead of taking it away.