Looking at certain polls, Roe v. Wade with its companion case Doe v. Bolton seems to have broad public support. For example, an NPR, PBS Newshour, Marist poll concluded that 3 out of 4 Americans want Roe to remain in place, something that is being debated this month as the Supreme Court has another opportunity to allow states like Louisiana to keep health and safety standards in place, protecting women who go to an abortion vendor. But the problem with that kind of math is that people also support all kinds of abortion regulation. What many don’t understand is that support for limiting abortion equals support for getting rid of Roe, returning the issue of the abortion to the states where voters would have a voice and a vote on abortion policy.
In 1973, when Roe v. Wade was handed down by seven Supreme Court justices, the impact was an end to all abortion-related laws in a ruling that was “a jurisprudential embarrassment.”
“[B]ehind its own verbal smokescreen,” liberal legal scholar Laurence Tribe wrote, “the substantive judgment on which it rests is nowhere to be found.”
And when that smoke cleared, Roe and Doe allowed for abortion through all nine months, for any reason and sometimes with taxpayer funding. Even though all abortion vendors don’t commit dangerous late-term abortion procedures, that doesn’t change the fact that in the U.S. such surgeries can be found.
Voters consistently oppose late-term abortion, and polls indicate that 7 in 10 Americans would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy. But that’s not what you get with Roe, which is used to push abortion much further by claiming laws cause an “undue burden” or reduce “access.”
Rejecting those legal talking points, legislators have worked to both limit abortion and to pass laws that hold the abortion industry accountable for its practices. It’s been slow going as the abortion industry, which rarely chooses to make its case to the people of America directly, uses the courts to block most efforts.
But that could change. In the Louisiana June v. Russo case currently before the Supreme Court, pro-life advocates have argued that there are “conflicts of interest” for abortion vendors to fight health and safety standards, claiming to speak for the women who could be harmed without them. In March, attorneys for the state noted that abortionists have little contact with women and only then briefly and when they are in a drugged state. But in court, the abortion vendors “challenge a Louisiana health statute designed to protect those very patients from unscrupulous and incompetent abortion providers.”
The Louisiana case also tests whether states can require the abortion industry to act like the medical care providers they claim to be by making an emergency plan with admitting privileges at local hospitals, to speed up life-saving care for a woman in danger.
A Kaiser poll shows people like this, too, as “nearly 7 in 10 support laws that require abortions only be performed by doctors who have been granted the right to admit patients at hospitals, including 56 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans.”
But polls are basically irrelevant when it comes to the kind of policy allowed by the Supreme Court via Roe, a virtual “get out of regulation free card” for an industry that uses the language of health care but the tactics of politics to advance its agenda.
When Students for Life commissioned a poll of Millennials, we wanted to get past the Roe slogans to ask if young people understood just what was allowed, and we found that “51 percent said that they opposed Roe, when they understood it allows for abortion through all 9 months of pregnancy.”
While the Louisiana case has not been set up to overturn Roe, it does illustrate once again that abortion as an issue has been hijacked by the courts. If you like laws that limit abortion in any way, you don’t actually like Roe, which allows the current legal framework of abortion to be practiced by an industry that so far has enjoyed unique legal protections for its deadly business while claiming to speak for its customers in court.
Cases like June v. Russo provide Americans with another opportunity to understand what Roe v. Wade actually means for women and their preborn children and to remind them to vote for candidates who will appoint judges who respect the law. Election day is the ultimate poll and one that actually gets attention.