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Nikki Haley's 'Honest' Abortion Answer Is A Full-On Monet
From far away it's okay, but once you get close it's a big ol' mess.
This week, abortion rights won big. In Ohio and in Virginia, voters made it very clear that they absolutely do not want what Republicans are serving on abortion. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s supposed “bold new tactic” of trying to paint Democrats as the real radicals, re: abortion, fell flat on its face.
As a result, some of the Republicans in last night’s presidential debate (minus Donald Trump, who feels debating is beneath him) were a tad meek on the abortion front. The only candidate who seemed to still be hoping for a nationwide ban was South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who thought he had a chance at outlawing the procedure at 15 weeks. You may recall that the spectre of a 15-week ban did not do much for Republicans in Virginia … literally the day before he said it.
For his part, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie shared the actually true sentiment that the Republican Party can’t really claim to be the pro-life party when they clearly do not give a crap about anyone’s life once they leave the womb.
"The bigger issue is we're not pro-life for the whole life. To be pro-life for the whole life means that the life of a 16-year-old drug addict on the floor of a county lockup is precious and we should get treatment for her," he said. Of course, being pro-life for the whole life would require Republicans to change their positions on literally everything else from gun control to health care to labor to subsidized food benefits and child care and pre-K.
Alas, Christie also went off the rails and started going on about how abortion is “legal” in his state and other states up until the ninth month. Of course, it’s only legal in the way that any other medical procedure is legal for those who need it and that getting it is a matter of a decision between patient and doctor. Open-heart surgery is legal, but that doesn’t mean doctors are going to go around doing open-heart surgery on people who don’t need it or that healthy people are walking into emergency rooms demanding it. It would also be weird for Republican legislators to make a law listing the circumstances under which someone could have open-heart surgery.
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Now, a lot of people have praised Nikki Haley for being “realistic” (which actually does not tend to go over well with the Republican base) and at least sounding reasonably empathetic.
“I think you have to be honest with the American people. This is a personal issue for every woman and every man. I am unapologetically pro-life, not because the Republican Party tells me to be, but because my husband Michael was adopted and I had trouble having both of my children, so I’m surrounded by blessings.”
Well, it is nice for Nikki Haley that having both of her children turned out well for her. I mean that! I’m glad her pregnancies did not go wrong. I’m glad that her husband was adopted by, we assume, some nice people instead of having to spend his childhood in foster care. It would be really great if things always ended this nicely for everyone. The problem is that they don’t.
“Having said that, when you look post-Roe, a wrong was made right. They took it out of the hands of unelected justices and they put it in the hands of the people.”
So weird how they’re only “unelected justices” when they are keeping abortion legal, not when they’re undoing decades of precedent or making reasonable gun control impossible.
“And now we’re seeing states vote.”
Yep! And every time, they are voting for legal abortion, not against it.
“What I’ll tell you is as much as I am pro-life, I don’t judge anyone for being pro-choice and I don’t want them to judge me for being pro-life.”
I will give it to her here — this is one of the least repugnant things a Republican has ever said about abortion. It sounds nice and “can’t we all just get along”-ish, which is not something one hears from the GOP very often. That being said, only one side of this issue is trying to make decisions for the other. We’re not telling people who don’t want abortions to go and have abortions, but they do want to restrict the ability of those who do want abortion to have one. That complicates things quite a bit.
“So when we’re looking at this, there are some states that are going more on the pro-life side, I welcome that, there are some states that are going pro-choice side, I wish that wasn’t the case but the people decided.
“But when it comes to the federal law, which is what’s being debated here, be honest, it’s gonna take 60 Senate votes, a majority of the House, and a president to sign it. So no, we haven’t had 60 Senate votes in over 100 years — we might have 45 pro-life senators — so no Republican president can ban abortions any more than a Democrat president can ban these state laws.”
Of course, that’s not actually all that “honest.” There are ways a Republican administration would be able to pass an abortion ban. Republican Senators with a majority could get rid of the filibuster to outlaw it, the same way Democratic legislators wanted to get rid of it in order to protect the right to abortion on a federal level. What? Republicans are gonna say “Oh, well, the Democrats didn’t do it so we should be gracious and not do it either!” Like they did with Supreme Court nominations? Please.
There are likely also other ways to get around those 60 votes, and don’t think for a second that these anti-abortion groups are not on it. When it comes to abortion rights, we have to know by now that you can never say never.
I have to say, I think this might be less about encouraging Republicans to manage their expectations and more about trying to convince voters they aren’t scary monsters who are going to outlaw all the abortions. It’s not necessarily true, but if Trump somehow ends up not being the nominee and the main thing we have is abortion rights … it’s probably smart.
“So let’s find consensus. Let’s agree on how we can ban late term abortion, let’s make sure we encourage adoptions and good quality adoptions, let’s make sure we make contraception accessible, let’s make sure none of these state laws put a woman in jail or give her the death penalty for getting an abortion. Let’s focus on how to save as many babies as we can and support as many moms as we can. Stop the judgment, we don’t need to divide America over this issue anymore.”
Most of this is actually something I would like to see from those who oppose abortion. The fact is, if people really hate abortion, the smartest things to do would be to ensure that contraceptives are accessible and that it is not a massive financial burden to have a child or even just to give birth. As we know, abortion doesn’t go away just because it is outlawed. In fact, abortions increased in the United States in the year after Roe was overturned, after several years of decline (that can likely be attributed to comprehensive sex education and accessible birth control, not to anti-abortion nonsense). So if you really want there to be fewer abortions, giving people fewer reasons to need them is going to be a lot more effective than outlawing them.
Where Haley is just plain wrong, though, is in bringing up late-term abortion.
Now, this used to be a winning argument for the Right, because people heard “late-term abortions” and kind of just assumed that they were had by people who went through nine months of pregnancy and said, “EH, you know what? I’m gonna pass.” Or by those who were such lazy sluts that they just didn’t get around to it by then. It wasn’t a hard pill for people to swallow because this is a familiar archetype of “female evil” that goes back centuries.
As long as people thought that’s what it was, they were golden. As long as no one actually saw the reality of what “banning late term abortion” looked like, it worked —and often was a hard thing for us to counter. But we have seen it now. And now when people hear “banning late term abortion” they start thinking about women with miscarriages not being able to get care until they almost go into sepsis.
No one ever, ever wants to hear the words “going into sepsis” from a doctor. But that is now what people think of when they think of “late term abortions.” They think of serious medical crises, not selfish, slutty women who just want to hurt babies after carrying them around for nine months for reasons of “evil.” They think of feeling scared and helpless. Republicans lost that fight by showing everyone what it actually looks like.
Beltway pundits have been fond of saying, for years, “Ooh boy, if Nikki Haley ever ran, Democrats would be in big trouble” on account of how she is pretty and put-together and able to talk like a normal human person in many circumstances. I have never really believed this (or that she’d win the nomination) because the Republican base absolutely despises her. They are not really into candidates sounding nuanced or compassionate or relatively sane. Without question, were she the nominee, most of MAGA would flip right on over to RFK Jr.
Sure, if she were the nominee it would present a different set of challenges than Trump does, given that the biggest assets Democrats have is that Biden is normal and not erratic or scary and that Republicans are going to take even more of our abortion rights away. So I understand why some people might hear this speech and get nervous, for fear of losing the Never Trumpers to her — but let’s remember that even if, by some miracle, she were the nominee, we beat Youngkin’s “We swear we’re not radicals” approach in Virginia and we can beat it nationwide as well.