I keep thinking that Democrats in Congress should make Republicans vote on each element of the regime the right is trying to impose on us. Before they had the votes on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe, Republicans were skilled at putting Democrats on the defensive while chipping away at abortion rights; think of the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which outlawed a late-term abortion technique. There were good reasons for Democrats to oppose that law — it forced women facing health risks, or carrying fetuses with severe abnormalities, to undergo more dangerous procedures. But descriptions of the abortions at issue were gruesome, helping Republicans to paint pro-choice Democrats as extremists.
There are Democratic staffers who want to do something similar. One Democratic aide recently told me she wishes the Senate would try to codify the right to an abortion in cases of rape, incest and threats to a mother’s health, exemptions that are overwhelmingly popular with the public, but controversial among Republicans. Such a measure could both divide Republicans and, assuming they attempt to block it, highlight their fanaticism.
But the aide pointed out that pro-choice advocacy groups generally oppose such an approach, seeing it as a retreat. And Smith was skeptical, in part because she doesn’t think Republicans would let such bills even get to the debate stage. “I see no evidence that we have 10 Republicans who would be willing to provide those protections to women,” she said.