Political Animal


March 15, 2013 3:32 PM The Anti-Choice Olympics

By Ed Kilgore

Ever since the 2010 elections, Republican legislators and governors have been in a competition to see who can enact the most blatantly unconstitutional—at least according to existing precedents—laws on abortion in the country. The first batch, typically banning abortions after around 20 weeks of pregnancy, were keyed to dubious claims that this is the stage when a fetus could experience pain. Earlier this month the Arkansas legislature picked up the pace with a bill banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, this time making the alleged earlier point of detection of a fetal heartbeat the rationale. That bill was passed over Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto.

Now North Dakota—a state with just one abortion clinic—is springing into action with a bill (just sent to Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple) banning abortions after just 6 weeks of pregnancy, based on an even earlier assumption about the advent of a fetal heartbeat. Also under consideration in one chamber of the legislature is a bill emulating Mississippi’s efforts (temporarily held up in the courts) to harrass abortion providers out of the state via bogus medical certification requirements, and a couple of bills adopting the “personhood” principle (giving a fertilized ovum the full protections of the law). So I guess Dalrymple will have the opportunity to sign the 6-week bill as a “compromise.”

With Republican-controlled legislatures all over the South talking about emulating Arkansas’ law (which may already be behind the times if North Dakota trumps it), the rather transparent purpose of this trend (other than bragging rights) is to force a fresh Supreme Court review of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the decisions banning state prohibitions on pre-viability abortions. Given the door apparently opened by the Court (or more specifically, Justice Kennedy) in the 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart decision to state regulations of abortion rationalized as needed to protect the “mental health” of the poor ignorant women resorting to the procedure, Roe is indeed vulnerable. More to the point, Barack Obama’s re-election means that conditions on the Court for undermining Roe may not get better in the foreseeable future.

And so the race for the honor of provoking the Court into taking up these challenges is gaining speed. If, in the meantime, these laws hamstring abortion providers and/or make life difficult or impossible for women seeking abortions, that’s all the better for America’s anti-choice athletes.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • tommy on March 15, 2013 3:51 PM:

    Hopefully, no one on the pro choice side will sue while we still have a rogue Supreme Court

  • dp on March 15, 2013 4:04 PM:

    They're trying to make it to the Supremes before one of the Fab Five kicks the bucket.

  • Josef K on March 15, 2013 4:10 PM:

    I fear that, short of divine intervention, the Roberts Court will have its chance at Roe. I'm not aware of any cases making their way through the system that would afford them the chance, but then I don't watch the Courts with any regularity.

    I also fear that President Obama will not have the chance to appoint another Supreme, and whoever he chooses will get fillibustered.

    All in all, about as despairing situation as you might find outside of Greek tragedy.

  • Peter C on March 15, 2013 4:38 PM:

    And, as soon as they get a 6-week ban in place, they'll require an 8-week waiting period.

    Our message: This is what happens when you elect Republicans, ANY REPUBLICANS.

    I can't stop the Supreme Court from over-turning Roe v. Wade. But I disagee with @tommy. We must challenge laws which encroach upon women's existing rights.

    When men start getting pregnant, only then should they have any say about pregnancy issues. Women deserve sovereignty over their own bodies.

  • c u n d gulag on March 15, 2013 4:56 PM:

    Soon to come:
    "The Stars In His Eyes Law!"

    Where, a woman will be prevented from having an abortion, if some man in her life, wants to be the father of her child.

    All any man would have to say is, "I'd tap that beyotch in a heartbeat!" - and she'd be legally forbidden from having an abortion.

    Regardless of who the real father might be - as long as the other guy said, "Hell, I'd even accept her love child from another man, if I could keep tapping, THAT!!!"

  • Mr Stuie on March 15, 2013 6:23 PM:

    Next step, compulsory marriage to the child's father? Even if she's a pre-teen rape victim.

  • emjayay on March 15, 2013 6:59 PM:

    The only sure thing Supreme Court appointment for Obama would be replacing a brilliant pro-woman relative liberal. For the others, I'm hoping for a fatal heart attack or stroke or two or pancreatic cancer or something. Not nice I know, but I'm thinking of the greater good here.