Murkowski to Schumer: I'll pass on your radical abortion bill, thanks

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

When you’ve lost Lisa Murkowski on abortion rights

To be fair, though, Chuck Schumer all but guaranteed that outcome. In fact, he went out of his way to get it, as we’ll see:

Why would Murkowski object to a “Roe codification bill”? Murkowski and Susan Collins both have consistently supported not just the Supreme Court decision in Roe but also the one in Casey. The answer to this, of course, is that Schumer’s bill doesn’t “codify Roe,” but instead expands abortion access to the limit of gestation, right up to the moment of birth. It also would force providers to perform abortions regardless of religious or moral objections. And it would preclude states from regulating abortion in any way, shape, or form, regardless of what the voters in those states want.

If Schumer really wanted to only “codify Roe,” then he would have adopted a bill authored by Murkowski and Collins:

Republican US Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are proposing their own alternative legislation to codify abortion rights, in response to Democrats’ bill that comes in response to a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v Wade. …

Conversely, Ms Collins and Ms Murkowski’s legislation, known as the Reproductive Choice Act, would essentially codify the language of Roe v Wade, which guaranteed the right to an abortion, and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v Casey, which upheld Roe’s“essential ruling” and prohibited “undue burden” on abortion access.

Ms Murkowski and Ms Collins’ legislation says a state cannot impose such an “undue burden” on a woman to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability but that it could restrict a woman’s ability to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy post-viability unless the pregnancy would affect the mother’s health. The legislation would allow states to enact regulations to ensure a woman seeking an abortion’s health and safety.

Schumer sniffed at an actual codification of Roe and Casey, calling it a “compromise”:

It wouldn’t have mattered in the end anyway, because neither bill will pass in the Senate. Schumer doesn’t have 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, and he doesn’t have 51 to change the rules to get around one either. Joe Manchin as well as Collins and Murkowski have said they won’t change the legislative filibuster on this issue, and Manchin was even more adamant that he wouldn’t cave on the filibuster for any issue. This is nothing more than a performative stunt by Schumer, adopting the most radically pro-abortion position possible to fire up progressives and raise a little cash ahead of the midterms. It’s a bill that’s designed to fail.

But even then, it’s a dumb strategy. Why not adopt the Collins-Murkowski bill and split off a couple of Republicans in the process? That would give his vulnerable incumbents some cover, plus it would actually restrict the effort to a codification in statute of the two precedents that the Supreme Court is about to overturn. Instead, Schumer’s about to force a whole bunch of them to take a meaningless, futile vote on a radical bill just as they’re about to go before voters in non-radical states, incumbents and candidates such as …

  • Mark Kelly (AZ)
  • Catherine Cortez-Masto (NV)
  • Rev. Raphael Warnock (GA)
  • Maggie Hassan (NH)
  • Michael Bennet (CO)
  • Tim Ryan (OH)

Those elections are less than six months out, and Schumer wants to force his Democratic incumbents/candidates to go on the record supporting abortion on demand until the moment of birth, forced participation in abortion, and taxpayer funding of abortion. That won’t end well for these candidates, and it certainly won’t end well for Schumer. In fact, I’d guess that Schumer might not even get to 49, or 45, for this bill, if the media starts pressing these incumbents on support for the most radical position possible on abortion. That’s especially true in the states above, but also for a country where half to two-thirds of voters want some sort of restriction on access, and the rest are split between full access and outright bans.

That would depend on media outlets to quit reporting that Schumer’s bill “codifies Roe,” however. When will that happen?

Update: There is all sorts of polling on abortion that shows most voters stuck between the parties on this issue, largely supportive of access to first-trimester abortions and largely opposed after that. That was the original Roe finding. Twitter follower Lee Eldrige notes one poll result in making the same argument:

That’s from Pew, I believe, but those results are so consistent that the citation is all but superfluous.