Robert Bork’s America and the 2022 Midterms
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President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court of the United States on July 1, 1987. Bork was known for his far right positions on issues such as contraception and abortion, as well as his massively harmful work on antitrust. As Senator Edward Kennedy from Massachusetts proclaimed less than an hour after Bork’s nomination on the Senate floor, “Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions.” Bork’s nomination was rejected by the Senate with one of the most substantial margins in American history, with then Delaware Senator and Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Joe Biden playing a key role in Bork’s rejection. While Biden is now president and Bork died in 2012, Kennedy’s omen is coming true. The Supreme Court will announce their ruling on the rights to an abortion in June 2022, and we might find ourselves in Bork’s America.
The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments regarding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on December 1. The case challenged the Gestational Age Act of Mississippi, which barred all abortions after 15 weeks without any exceptions for rape or incest. The previous abortion case heard by the court, June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo (2020), upheld Roe v. Wade (which established the right to an abortion), and Planned Parenthood v. Casey upheld Roe but created new standards. However, a new ideologically conservative and personally anti-abortion justice, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, was installed a week before a presidential election to replace deceased firmly pro-choice Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This appointment solidified an ideologically conservative and anti-abortion majority.
Installing this exact court has long been an effort of conservative activists and Republicans. Every Republican presidential platform since 1976 has called for Roe, and later Casey, to be overturned, whether by constitutional amendment or the appointment of justices. Republicans have also begun to purge pro-choice politicians from their ranks in recent years, despite these officials’ conservatism on many other matters. But the view of these conservative activists increasingly fails to reflects the positions of Americans, who support abortion being legal by a 59 percent to 40 percent margin. The decision of the court is expected at the end of the court’s term in June 2022, just five months before the 2022 midterm elections. And this topic will likely be an issue for anti-abortion Republicans, who are hoping to achieve a clean sweep in the midterm elections.
Many of the largest battlegrounds of the midterm elections are firmly pro-choice, according to AP VoteCast in 2020. In the state of Arizona, 63 percent of AP VoteCast respondents said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, higher than the national average. In the state of Texas, where the abortion fight first began, 55 percent of respondents said the same, despite the passage of a new restrictive abortion law by a Republican trifecta. In heavily Catholic Pennsylvania, the figure was 59 percent. In Georgia, where there are many pro-life African American voters who typically vote blue, it was 53 percent. Even in states that voted for Republicans in 2020 by nearly double digits in percentage, such as Iowa and Ohio, the figures were 53 percent and 54 percent, respectively. Although exit polls are typically not conducted in congressional or legislative districts, one can assume that the same applies in those areas.
Anti-abortion voters have become a movement to be reckoned with and reward Republicans for their attempts to get Roe overturned. Anti-abortion voters are often the voters who consider abortion as a reason for their votes because they want to change the status quo by banning abortion. They are determined to overturn Roe, as pro-choice voters have been less vigorous. They are effectively essential to modern day Republican victories. But the oil in the anti-abortion movement engine is the existence of Roe and Casey themselves, and an engine is functionless without its oil. If Roe and Casey are overturned, the anti-abortion movement will effectively become redundant, since abortion will be banned for a significant majority of states.
If Bork’s America comes to pass in June 2022, Kennedy’s words will leave an ominous legacy. A total of 22 states will likely have near-instant bans on abortion for a multitude of reasons. This count includes swing states such as Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona. Individuals in these states who want to seek abortions will have to travel out of state if they can even afford it (except in the state of Georgia), or they will have to obtain abortions through illegal means, which could be dangerous. Many of these states do not even provide exceptions for incest or rape. And even when the mother’s life is at risk, an abortion may still be denied, which could result in the unfortunate death of the mother. Thirteen states are in unclear territory where laws do not explicitly permit or prohibit abortion, allowing states to pass laws or possibly leave it to the local level.
Overturning Roe and Casey is akin to poking a sleeping bear––the bear being the portion of the American populace that is pro-choice. These pro-choice voters have effectively laid dormant and been content with Roe and Casey being the law of the land for nearly half a century. But now they will likely be violently awaken by the end of Roe and Casey and will have the same vigor anti-abortion voters have had for five decades. One can expect every race that will affect the status of abortion to be nationalized in 2022. Pestering dormant pro-choice voters was a grave mistake for Republicans, and they may live to regret it in the 2022 midterms.