US President Joe Biden said a federal law would be the “fastest way” to restore access to abortion as he signed an executive order to guarantee access last Friday. Calling the ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson “an exercise in raw political power”, Biden’s order aims to protect women against penalties if they cross state lines for an abortion, while protecting access to medications. The order also addresses the transfer and sale of data related to abortion.
In itself, the order will only have a limited impact. The President’s power is curtailed by congressional provisions which prohibit the government from spending funds to support terminations, provisions Biden once backed. However, the President said on Sunday that he has asked his administration to consider whether he has the authority to declare an abortion-related public health emergency, suggesting his determination to fight the Dobbs ruling.
In a nod to November’s midterms, Biden has also reiterated his support for changing congressional debating rules so lawmakers can codify Roe vs. Wade into law, although he needs more votes to make changes to the filibuster. In other words, more Democrats. At the moment, Republicans are on course to win the House of Representatives but the Senate is proving a closer race. Since the Supreme Court ruling, at least nine states have instituted a near-total ban on abortion, with the only exception being risk to the life of the mother.
There have been attempts at state level to ensure that abortions can continue, such as a court order in Texas which allowed abortions to resume. That was later overturned by the Texas Supreme Court. In Kentucky, a six-week ban came into effect which only permits abortions to protect women from death or injury, until a judge allowed abortions up to 20 weeks. In heavily-Mormon Utah, a trigger ban was also blocked, allowing abortions to resume until July 11.
Perhaps the most important issue now will be results of the midterms. Data suggests abortion is becoming a major issue for voters after Dobbs, with 66 per cent of voters saying it is now either extremely or very important. According to data from Gallup, while 37 per cent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters say abortion is extremely important, this rises to 48 per cent for Democrats and Democrat-leaners, indicating the pro-abortion vote may be more energised.
According to Nate Silver, writing for FiveThirtyEight, “we’ve seen some movement toward Democrats on the generic congressional ballot, which asks voters which party they would support in an election.” Pollsters are showing a shift to the Democrats post-Dobbs, including Rasmussen Reports, YouGov/Yahoo News, and Morning Consult/Politico (all +3). Meanwhile, according to data from Pew Research Center, most Americans do not support the Supreme Court decision, with 62 per cent of adults saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
According to Pew, nearly 57 per cent of US adults disapprove of Dobbs, (including 43 per cent who strongly disapprove). By contrast, 41 per cent approve of the decision, (with 25 per cent strongly approving). In a politically divided country, while 82 per cent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents disapprove of the court’s decision (including nearly two-thirds who strongly disapprove), 70 per cent of Republicans and Republican-leaners approve of the court’s ruling (with 48 per cent strongly approving).
Strikingly, Catholics are also divided – a subject the Herald has covered before. While 51 per cent of Catholics approved of the court’s decision (with 34 per cent strongly approving), 48 per cent disapproved (with 28 per cent strongly disapproving). For Protestants, the figures were 45 per cent (32 per cent), and 52 per cent (35 per cent) respectively. Younger Americans and graduates tend to disapprove in higher numbers, while White and Hispanic Americans tended to be less disapproving of the decision than Black and Asian Americans (a majority of all four groups opposed Dobbs, however).
Equally striking, only a minority of Catholics believe abortion should be illegal in most or all instances, with 39 per cent believing this overall, and 9 per cent believing so in all cases. By contrast, 60 per cent of Catholics say it should be legal in most or all cases (with 23 per cent saying so in all cases). Protestants are divided nearly 50/50. In the meantime, Biden seems determined to use whatever tools he has to mitigate the impact of Dobbs. Nevertheless, he appears to be pinning his hopes on the midterms. Hardly surprising since data suggests the Supreme Court ruling has energised both sides, but especially those who support abortion access – and in a divided country, Catholics are also increasingly split. With passions high, protests continuing and elections ahead, the battle for hearts and minds is far from over.
Having been unable to sell in churches for well over a year due to the pandemic, we are now inviting readers to support the Herald by investing in our future. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values.
Please join us on our 130 year mission by supporting us. We are raising £250,000 to safeguard the Herald as a world-leading voice in Catholic journalism and teaching. For more information from our chairman on contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund, click here
Make a Donation
Donors giving £500 or more will automatically become sponsor patrons of the Herald. This includes two complimentary print/digital gift subscriptions, invitations to Patron events, pilgrimages and dinners, and 6 gift subscriptions sent to priests, seminaries, Catholic schools, religious care homes and prison and university chaplaincies. Click here for more information on becoming a Patron Sponsor. Click here for more information about contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund