Home » New House speaker is a poster boy for Republican anti-abortion extremism

New House speaker is a poster boy for Republican anti-abortion extremism

Republicans underperformed expectations in the 2022 elections in a voter backlash against the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade and the harsh state abortion bans that followed. With their choice of Mike Johnson as speaker of the House, they’re doubling down on that. This guy is extreme—even by Republican standards.

In a 2015 interview with Irin Carmon, Johnson called overturning Roe “the silver bullet” and blamed abortion for school shootings:

“Many women use abortion as a form of birth control, you know, in certain segments of society, and it’s just shocking and sad, but this is where we are. When you break up the nuclear family, when you tell a generation of people that life has no value, no meaning, that it’s expendable, then you do wind up with school shooters.”

He has also suggested that abortion drags down the economy, saying:

Roe v. Wade gave constitutional cover to the elected killing of unborn children in America, period. You think about the implications of that on the economy. We’re all struggling here to cover the bases of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and all the rest. If we had all those able-bodied workers in the economy, we wouldn’t be going upside down and toppling over like this.

It almost goes without saying that his concern for a lack of able-bodied workers does not translate into support for immigration.

When the Supreme Court decided Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Johnson’s press release said it was “an historic and joyful day. After nearly a half century, the Supreme Court has finally corrected its egregious error.”

Following Dobbs, some Democrats warned that Republicans would use control of Congress to pass a national abortion ban. The media largely waved off that warning, but Johnson co-sponsored a national 15-week ban that fall. Like many other Republicans who turned around and supported a national ban, he had previously claimed to believe that abortion should be a state issue.

That 2022 bill was gauzily packaged as the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act,” but it was a 15-week ban. In reality, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “The science conclusively establishes that a human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after at least 24–25 weeks. Every major medical organization that has examined this issue and peer-reviewed studies on the matter have consistently reached the conclusion that abortion before this point does not result in the perception of pain in a fetus.”

That’s not the only thing Johnson did to win his A+ rating from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. There’s a looong list of reasons for that rating. In 2021, Johnson backed the “Heartbeat Protection Act”—in translation, a six-week abortion ban at the federal level. He loudly supported the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” anti-abortion messaging in the guise of legislation. In fact, a 2002 law already gives legal protections to any baby born alive. The head of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called the 2021 legislation a “reckless bill would impede families from making significant quality-of-life decisions, such as being able to provide comfort or spiritual care in tragic and painful situations.”

Before he was in Congress, Johnson was an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (at the time Alliance Defense Fund). Known as ADF, the organization would go on to help draft the Mississippi law that brought Dobbs to the Supreme Court and defend the law before the court. While Johnson did not get to argue against abortion at the Supreme Court himself, he did the routine ADF work of trying to get abortion providers shut down and defending anti-abortion laws in lower courts.

With Johnson’s elevation to speaker, Republicans have no ground to claim that they don’t want to pass extreme anti-abortion laws at the federal level. Let’s make sure voters know it this November and in 2024.

Abortion rights are on the line in Ohio and Virginia this fall. Help boost Democratic voter turnout by writing “please vote” letters with Vote Forward. Click here to start.

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October 2023