Must-read by Michael Barone that makes a point so obvious I'm wondering why I missed it myself. He notes that the sound defeat of an initiative to ban abortion in a conservative state makes it impossible to argue that the overturning of Roe vs. Wade would lead many states to ban abortion:
It seems to me that this vote will tend to reduce the saliency of the abortion issue in national politics–on both the prolife and prochoice sides (I will use those terms, which are preferred by advocates on either side).
Some prolife groups criticized the South Dakota legislators and governor for passing a law that, under current Supreme Court rulings, would surely be declared unconstitutional whenever it got into court. Yet the voters killed it faster than the courts could. The fact that an abortion ban could not pass muster with the voters of a state like South Dakota should convince clearsighted prolifers that, even if Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, abortion is simply not going to be banned in the United States anytime soon. True, opposition to abortion is very high in a few jurisdictions (Louisiana, Utah, Guam). But it was almost as high in South Dakota, and the ban was overturned. American voters are ready to support many limitations on abortion. But it seems that very large majorities nationally are not willing to approve an outright ban.
It's only to the good that people have a clear understanding of the lay of the land when issues like this are debated. Expect this to be a key part of the debate should Bush nominate a strict-constructionist for any upcoming Supreme Court opening.
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