Source: The New Yorker
By Eyal Press
Every year around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade—January 22, 1973—protesters from across the country gather in Washington, D.C., for the March for Life, an anti-abortion demonstration that begins at the National Mall and ends on the steps of the Supreme Court. Had Hillary Clinton been elected President, the mood at this year’s march, which will take place on January 27th, might have been glum. Instead, it is likely to be buoyant, infused by the glow of Donald Trump’s Inauguration, which has rekindled hopes that Roe may soon be gone.
During his campaign, Trump vowed to appoint Justices to the Supreme Court who will overturn Roe, and he has repeated his promises since the election. How many such appointments he will actually make remains to be seen. But it is not inconceivable that, during Trump’s time in office, both of the high court’s senior liberal members—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is eighty-three, and Stephen Breyer, who is seventy-eight—will depart from the Court. If Trump fulfills his promise to replace them with “pro-life” Justices in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia, he could pave the way for Roe’s demise.
For members of the anti-abortion movement, this would be a dream scenario. But is hastening Roe’s demise something the Republican Party really wants? To liberals who have grown accustomed to hearing Republicans denounce the opinion in the most strident terms, the question may sound naïve. There is nothing they want more, it often seems. But the denunciations mask an irony: for the conservative movement, Roe has not been such a bad thing. Conservatives may indeed benefit more from Roe’s preservation than from its being overturned.
The most direct beneficiaries of Roe have been women of all political persuasions, whose right to control their own bodies and to avoid forced childbirth was not recognized before the ruling. But conservatives have also reaped benefits since the late nineteen-seventies, when strategists like Paul Weyrich, the co-founder of the Moral Majority, shrewdly recognized that social issues like abortion could broaden the Republican Party’s base beyond the business class. “Yes,” social issues “are emotional issues, but that’s better than talking about capital formation,” Weyrich said. As the recent election showed, this strategy can yield dividends even for candidates who have never seemed especially moved by the plight of the unborn. For much of his life, Trump described himself as pro-choice. He was more likely to be spotted at a night club than at a pro-life rally. All of this changed when Trump ran for President, at which point he began courting evangelicals like Jerry Falwell, Jr., and rebranding himself as a committed right-to-lifer.