Jun 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

GOP eyes federal abortion restrictions after Dobbs

Rep. Jim Banks speaks at a news conference with other House Republicans and members of GOP leadership.
Rep. Jim Banks speaks at a news conference. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republicans in Congress are already discussing potential legislative action a future GOP majority could take in response to the Supreme Court's decision on Friday striking down the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade.

Why it matters: The ruling will trigger bans in Republican-controlled states, but many Democratic states have codified the right to an abortion. Federal abortion restrictions would change that.

Reality check: Two major hurdles stand in Republicans' way even if they take back control of Congress in November: the Senate filibuster and President Biden, who would veto any abortion restrictions that reach his desk.

What they're saying: Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the chair of the 158-member Republican Study Committee, told Axios, "We're having lots of conversations."

  • "When we get the majority back after the midterms, I expect there to be a larger discussion about where Republicans are unified, and those conversations are still ongoing," he added.
  • Banks said there are "lots of legislative vehicles that are getting broad Republican support," from a 15-week ban to a heartbeat bill to a total ban.
  • Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), who is championing a total abortion ban co-sponsored by more than 160 House Republicans, said, "We need to do what our base sent us here to do and what is the right thing to do, which is to ban all abortion."

The other side: Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), one of the more moderate members of the House Republican conference, told Axios, "most of the work will be done at the state level," though he didn't rule out supporting federal legislation.

  • Because of Biden and the filibuster, "I think you'll see very little legislation actually get signed into law, at least in the near term," he said. "You may want to do some messaging bills ... put people on record. But we just got to be realistic."
  • Bacon also warned of the potential political ramifications of "increased intensity" on the pro-abortion rights side as a result of the ruling.
  • Banks and Good both expressed more optimism, however. "I'm not counting that out," Banks said of a 6o-seat GOP Senate majority in 2023. Good predicted the GOP would win that and the presidency "in the next few years."

The bottom line: There is no mystery about whether the House, under a GOP majority, will pass abortion restrictions. The question is how far they will go.

  • The broad consensus among Republicans is that the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would require doctors to provide care to infants born after botched abortions, will be a top priority.
  • "Leadership has already committed to be one of the first votes we'll take in the majority," said Banks.
  • Asked whether GOP leadership would go as far as a total ban, however, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told Axios, "We're going to work with all of our members to celebrate and protect life."
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