Activists think they have a path to stopping abortions nationwide. It runs not through Congress but through the White House, the Supreme Court, and an arcane 19th-century law.
By Mary Ziegler
May 30, 2023
Almost a year ago, when the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court promised that each state would make its own decision on abortion. At the time, a national statute of any kind seemed impossible. Democrats had tried and failed to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have secured abortion rights nationwide. And once Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives, they didn’t try to pass a national abortion ban. Their legislative wish list did not include one, and poll after poll showed that most Americans believed abortion to be a right and wanted it to be legal, especially early in pregnancy.
The antiabortion movement had never wanted the issue left to the states. Since the 1980s, the movement had made sure that the Republican Party platform had a plank endorsing a human life amendment. But in the immediate aftermath of the Dobbs ruling, it seemed that there was little chance that antiabortion advocates could get their wish for a national ban.