Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Top 5 This Week

Nationwide Abortion Ban: The Inevitable Result of a Trump Victory

The Heritage Foundation's Project 2025 plan details how Trump will eliminate abortion access by abusing the Comstock Act and revoking FDA approval of medication abortion.

pro-choice abortion ban protest, Trump Supreme Court
Photo: Ted Eytan

The 2024 election carries unprecedented stakes for reproductive freedom in the United States, with a potential nationwide abortion ban lurking on the horizon if Donald Trump and the Republican Party gain control of the federal government. Despite their calculated assurances to the contrary, the GOP’s agenda is crystal clear: a national ban on abortion is not only possible but highly probable if Trump wins the presidency again.

During his presidency, Trump’s administration laid the groundwork for a sustained assault on reproductive rights with the appointment of three Supreme Court justices who were instrumental in overturning Roe v. Wade. His satisfaction in this achievement is palpable, openly bragging about it in his speeches and interviews. 

More ominously, Trump has signaled that if re-elected, he plans to further entrench a conservative judiciary by appointing more anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. With aging justices like Alito and Thomas likely to step down under a Trump administration, he would replace them with younger, more conservative judges. Additionally, Sonia Sotomayor is 69 years old and Trump could replace her too. This could lead to a 7-2 conservative majority, cementing far-right rulings for generations and significantly altering the judicial landscape.

Trump Flip-Flops on Federal Abortion Ban Stance

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has played a duplicitous game regarding his stance on abortion. He first suggested he might support a 16-week federal abortion ban, which he framed as a “reasonable compromise” despite its broad unpopularity. A KFF poll found that 58 percent of Americans oppose a 16-week ban, underscoring just how out of touch this position is with public sentiment. 

A month later, Trump flip-flopped, claiming he wouldn’t support a federal abortion ban—an egregious attempt to deceive voters he views as gullible. Trump’s rhetoric is calculated; he recognizes the widespread unpopularity of a national ban, and thus disguises his true intentions to retain voter support. However, Trump’s true agenda becomes evident when he says anti-abortion activists need to “win elections first”, indicating that more extreme measures are on the horizon if he wins.

Nationwide Abortion Ban Within Trump’s First 100 Days?

Amidst this political subterfuge lies the Comstock Act, a 19th-century “anti-vice” law that bans mailing anything used for abortion. Long considered a legal relic, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision has effectively reanimated this “zombie law.” 

Project 2025, a blueprint developed by an array of far-right organizations including the Heritage Foundation, envisions utilizing the Comstock Act to its fullest extent, blocking the mailing of abortion pills without the need for new legislation. Jonathan Mitchell, a key figure in the anti-abortion movement and one of the architects of Texas’ notorious SB 8 law, has stated clearly, “We don’t need a federal ban when we have Comstock on the books.”

Project 2025 doesn’t stop there. This comprehensive, regressive agenda for a second Trump administration focuses on revoking FDA approval of medication abortion—which accounts for over 60% of abortions in the country—and pull federal funding from any healthcare providers offering abortion services. 

They intend to reverse protections that allowed for life-saving abortions in VA hospitals and plan to withdraw Medicaid funding from states that support reproductive freedoms. These measures, if implemented, would effectively ban most forms of abortion nationwide within the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency without requiring any input from Congress.

How Republicans Deceive Voters on Abortion Policies

Congressional Republicans are skillfully dodging clear commitments to a national abortion ban, positioning themselves as moderate while emphasizing state control over abortion laws. Figures like Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) are at the forefront of this strategy, claiming abortion should be decided at the state level. However, their history of supporting national abortion restrictions tells a different story, suggesting their current stance is more about electoral strategy than principle.

During the lead-up to the 2020 election, Donald Trump and his allies vehemently denied that Roe v. Wade was in jeopardy, with Trump dismissing concerns during a presidential debate. Now, the reversal of Roe has proven those reassurances false.

While Republicans publicly shy away from addressing a nationwide ban directly, internal documents like Project 2025’s policy book reveal plans to eliminate terms such as “abortion,” “reproductive health,” and “reproductive rights” from federal language. This Orwellian strategy aims to reshape public perception and erase reproductive freedom from the dialogue.

Moreover, the implications for federal programs like Medicaid are dire. Project 2025 aims to grant states the liberty to defund providers like Planned Parenthood, who offer not just abortions but comprehensive reproductive health care. This would disproportionately harm low-income individuals and people of color, exacerbating health disparities in marginalized communities.

Democrats Mobilize to Protect Reproductive Rights

While Republicans are making plans to end abortion access, Democrats are vigorously pushing back against the GOP’s anti-abortion agenda. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) have introduced legislation to repeal the Comstock Act, a restrictive law Republican leaders aim to use for banning abortion. Unfortunately, they will face fierce opposition in Congress. Speaker Johnson is expected to block such bills in the House, and Senate Republicans are likely to filibuster, as they did with previous attempts to protect contraception and IVF nationwide.

In a show of support 17 other Senate Democrats have endorsed the legislation, along with companion bills introduced in the House by Reps. Becca Balint (D-VT) and Cori Bush (D-MO). Yet, obstacles loom large, as evidenced by Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas recently underscoring the importance of the Comstock Act during oral arguments related to mifepristone, a critical abortion medication.

“It’s not some obscure subsection of a complicated obscure law,” Alito remarked, pointing to Comstock as a “prominent provision.” The struggle to uphold abortion rights continues amid intense political division and strategic opposition.

Senator Tina Smith emphasized the need to confront those intending to misuse the Comstock Act. “We have to see that these anti-choice extremists are intending to misapply the Comstock Act…our job is to draw attention to that, and to do everything that we can to stop them.” These legislative moves by Democrats aim to safeguard reproductive rights against a coordinated effort by MAGA Republicans to leverage Comstock for a broader abortion ban.

Zurawski’s Testimony Highlights Abortion Ban Dangers

The high stakes of the 2024 presidential election are more obvious than ever. Should Donald Trump win, the infrastructure is in place to implement a sweeping assault on reproductive freedoms. Legislation, judicial appointments, bureaucratic regulations—all of these avenues would be weaponized in a full-scale war against abortion rights. Even in states where abortion rights are currently protected, a federal ban would nullify those protections, leaving the entire country without access to safe and legal abortion care.

The human toll of such policies cannot be ignored. Amanda Zurawski’s poignant testimony about the life-threatening complications she faced in Texas underscores the dire stakes. “My family has been forever altered by the nightmare that Donald Trump created by overturning Roe. I nearly died because my doctor could not give me the care I needed—and my ability to have children in the future has been forever compromised by the damage that was caused.”

This is not a theoretical exercise; people’s lives are on the line. Donald Trump’s statements and the Republicans’ actions make it abundantly clear that they are not merely content with restricting abortion; they intend to outlaw it entirely, inflicting suffering and chaos on countless individuals across the nation.

In sum, the Republican-led push for a nationwide abortion ban through legislative and executive means poses a severe threat to reproductive freedom in the U.S. The Project 2025 blueprint from Trump’s allies reveals a detailed plan to eliminate reproductive rights from American law and culture, with policies that could devastate millions. Despite Donald Trump’s claims of moderation, his true intent is clear: to ban abortion nationwide if he regains power. This agenda is a direct assault on the right to choose, requiring vigilant resistance from advocates, lawmakers, and voters.