Will the Democrats Save Roe or Themselves?

Marc Ash / Reader Supported News
Will the Democrats Save Roe or Themselves? Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stands with Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tina Smith, Amy Klobuchar and others. (photo: AP)

ALSO SEE: Senators Collins and Murkowski Hatch Their Own Plan
to Protect Roe v. Wade

It seems now all but certain that this Supreme Court, hand picked to overturn Roe v. Wade the landmark 1973 abortion ruling will deliver on those expectations.

Standing in their way as a sort of last line of defense are the Democrats. That’s the theory anyway. However the Democrats unsurprisingly seem better at expressing outrage than doing anything about the source of the injustice. In trying to understand what the Democrats will or won’t do it is important to remember what the Supreme Court’s overthrow of Roe means for not just for American women but for the Democratic party itself. The demise of Roe may be bad for the country but for the foreseeable future it’s good for the Democratic party.

NPR recently reported “Democrats hope abortion will jolt young voters to action in the midterms.” It almost certainly will jolt young voters, women voters and swing voters as well. The Daily Beast followed the money saying, “Dems Flooded With Cash After Roe Leak—and Fear It Won’t Last.” It begs the question, what might make the flood of cash stop?

At the risk of overdoing the cynicism it bears noting that if the Democrats succeed in passing legislation that protects women’s reproductive rights in a manner consistent with the original Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 it is quite possible, even probable that public outrage may die down. The newly energized democratic base and donors might very well go back to sleep. An apathetic Democratic base would almost certainly guarantee Republican control of the House and a strong shot at gaining a majority in the Senate. The Democrats want and need the power of the majority not voter apathy.

Manchin, Collins and Murkowski and Sinema (Maybe)

To get an Abortion rights bill passed, any abortion rights bill the Democrats will have to find a way to circumnavigate the filibuster. There are a few ways to do that, but by far the most practical and most likely to succeed is so-called “carve-out” in the filibuster to allow an exception for single piece of legislation to pass. A carve-out only requires a simple majority.

Joe Manchin has already said, to no one’s surprise, that he will not vote for a carve-out to allow abortion rights legislation to pass. That coupled with his long-time opposition to abortion rights in general puts him squarely in the Republican camp, a place in which he is very comfortable.

The ever unpredictable Kyrsten Sinema bears mentioning as well. Her most recent position is in lockstep with Manchin. Business Insider reports, “Sen. Kyrsten Sinema stands by her support of the Senate filibuster, dooming Democratic plans to codify federal abortion protections.” Which doesn’t mean Democratic attempts to pass abortion protection legislation are in fact doomed, it just means that it will require help from at least two Republicans.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, both Republicans are the wild cards. Notorious for saying all the right things and voting for all the wrong things Murkowski and Collins now find themselves in a tight spot. Both have long touted their support for women’s reproductive rights. Both where key votes in approving the hard-right justices that now stand poised — despite their personal assurances to Murkowski and Collins — to do the very thing they said they would not do, overturn Roe v. Wade.

Murkowski and Collins were so put-off by what they view as betrayals by Supreme Court nominees they cast key votes to approve that they were moved to write their own abortion rights protection bill. Their decision to craft legislation of their own would strongly indicate a desire on their part to get it passed and presumably vote for a filibuster carve-out to get it done. They were promptly met by scorn and ridicule from the Democrats, a conspicuously unconstructive response.

The Democratic complaint is that Murkowski-Collins bill doesn’t go far enough. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut the main sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act put it this way: “They're too many gaps and loopholes that would easily enable TRAP laws, that impose requirements, for example, that mandate width of hallways, admitting privileges, but also permit six week bans, eight week bans. I think our legislation really fully and admirably protects reproductive rights in ways that draft doesn't.” But not if the Democratic version of the bill dies on the Senate floor and it has already failed once.

In the hypothetical, assuming that Blumenthal and the Democrats have a valid point, why does that preclude collaboration to craft mutually acceptable legislation? The Democrats are not embracing and encouraging Murkowski and Collins they are driving them off. Democratic voters and donors need to demand more.

Do the Democrats want to protect women’s reproductive rights or take advantage of public outrage to maintain their majorities? Are they really willing to put the best interests of the country first? Murkowski and Collins are making an effort, however imperfect. The Democrats in good faith need to try to embrace their effort and build on it. The voters and, donors need to demand it and pay close attention to the details, closer than they have been up until now.

Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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