Speaking Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley said she’d be “fine” with a national abortion ban. Pressed on this by host Margaret Brennan, Haley attempted to muddle her position by bemoaning the fact that such a ban was unlikely to land on a president’s desk given the difficulty of obtaining 60 votes in the Senate. Haley also stressed that she did not “judge” anyone who was pro-choice, but felt that some amorphous “consensus” could be reached on the issue.
From the transcript (condensed):
NIKKI HALEY: You know, it’s so interesting, because this is a- you can’t say that to the American people because all you’re doing is putting fear and judgment in them. Yes, I’m unapologetically pro-life, but I don’t judge anyone for being pro-choice. I’ve said I’m fine with a federal law.
But the thing is, in order to get a federal law, you have to have a majority of the House, 60 senators and a signature of the President. Margaret, we haven’t had 60 Republican senators in over 100 years. So no Republican president can ban abortions, any more than a Democrat president can ban any state law. What we can do is let’s find consensus.
I think we can find consensus to ban late-term abortions. I think we can find consensus to encourage adoptions and good quality adoptions. I think we can find consensus that doctors and nurses who don’t believe in abortion shouldn’t have to perform them. I think we can find consensus that contraception should be accessible, and I think we should find consensus that any woman who has an abortion, no state law should say she’s going to jail or getting the death penalty.
I will not demonize this issue. It’s too personal. We have to start doing that. Democrats use fear and Republicans use judgment. This is too personal of an issue to use fear or judgment and I won’t be a part of any of that.
Haley’s go-to “word salad” response was carefully honed to mollify pro-forced birth Republicans but leave just enough wiggle room to pivot if she is fortunate enough to ever face the general electorate. More than that, it is instructive and revealing because it illustrates the predicament Republicans now find themselves in.
First and most importantly, it’s absolutely clear (as President Joe Biden’s digital response team points out above) that a President Haley—just like any Republican, Trump included—would sign any federal law banning abortion if a future Senate and House delivered one to her desk.
As Jillian Frankel reports for NBC News, in 2010, then-South Carolina state Rep. Haley “co-sponsored a bill proposing that life begins at fertilization, with due process and equal protection both applying to embryos, essentially imposing a complete ban on abortion.” She also supported South Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban as governor, saying she would have preferred an even stricter one.
There is no reasonable doubt that as president, Haley would refrain from imposing her beliefs on a nationwide scale using a federal abortion ban. Despite her constant deflections, whether the prospect is likely or unlikely is irrelevant; five years ago many prognosticators felt it was “unlikely” that Roe would be overruled. They were wrong.
Haley’s word salad also reflects some fundamental misunderstandings about abortion that are apparently endemic to the Republican Party. Haley says some “consensus” could be reached as to “late-term” abortions. However, 99% of abortions aren’t “late-term,” and the ones that do take place are usually due to medical complications impacting whether the pregnant person would survive the pregnancy and birth.
- Abortions at or after 21 weeks are uncommon, and represent 1% of all abortions in the US. Typically, these procedures cost well over $1,000, excluding the cost of travel and lost wages. They normally require treatment over multiple days, and are only performed by a subset of all abortion providers.
- Reasons individuals seek abortions later in pregnancy include medical concerns such as fetal anomalies or maternal life endangerment, as well as barriers to care that cause delays in obtaining an abortion.
Haley also asserts there can be “consensus” that “doctors and nurses who don’t believe in abortion shouldn’t have to perform them.” Nope. If a doctor or nurse is unwilling to assist in the medical procedure of terminating an unwanted pregnancy, they should not have gone into a branch of medicine that includes such procedures in the first place.
Nor should pharmacists be permitted to refuse to dispense lawful prescriptions based on moral or religious objections. Their job is to treat patients, and they do not have any moral right to interpose their subjective religious views on others in violation of the clear, unequivocal responsibilities they have assumed.
Yet thanks to the forced-birth lobby, 46 states already provide for such “refusal” by medical practitioners and pharmacists. As reported by the Guttmacher Institute:
A patchwork of federal laws explicitly allows many health care professionals and institutions to refuse to provide care related to abortion and sterilization services. Collectively, these laws prevent government agencies from forcing the provision of services or “discriminating” against individuals and institutions that refuse to provide them; they also prevent institutions receiving certain federal funds from taking action against health care personnel because of their participation or nonparticipation in beliefs about abortion or sterilization. Separate federal laws and regulations, notably Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, prohibit employers from discriminating against personnel based on religion, including religiously based objections to performing specific job functions; an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
So there is no need for “consensus” on that issue. For anyone who becomes pregnant, such laws are already a fait accompli, an unnecessary and intrusive hurdle they’re already forced to face for opting to end an unwanted (or unviable) pregnancy.
Haley also asserts that a “consensus” can be reached that “contraception should be accessible.” It already is accessible (generally), but fresh from their success in overturning Roe, forced-birth proponents are now seeking to ban it. They will not stop, nor will the conservative lawmakers currently introducing such legislation. As noted by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s reversal of Roe also implicates reversal of the Griswold v. Connecticut decision upon which Roe was premised, opening the door to banning contraception, which Thomas supports.
As reported by Quint Forgey and Josh Gerstein, writing for Politico:
In his concurring opinion, Thomas — an appointee of President George H.W. Bush — wrote that the justices “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell” — referring to three cases having to do with Americans’ fundamental privacy, due process and equal protection rights.
There is no room for “consensus” where the Supreme Court can simply take away rights by fiat, and is already threatening to do so.
Haley also claims there should be “consensus” that for anyone obtaining an abortion, “no state law should say she’s going to jail or getting the death penalty.” Yet there are already laws passed in multiple Republican-controlled states that do just that.
As reported by Farah Diaz-Tello and Sara Ainsworth, writing for the American Bar Association:
Our ongoing study of cases from 2000–20 has uncovered 61 cases in which an individual has been subject to the criminal legal system because they actually or allegedly self-managed an abortion or helped someone else do so. The findings do not reveal middle-class white mothers but rather people in rural areas who didn’t have access to a car or who couldn’t take time off work to get to the nearest clinic hours away; people who relied on medications available over the counter in their home countries when the U.S. medical system failed them; and people already trying to raise children on the ragged edge of poverty in places where Medicaid will not cover the cost of an abortion. The profile of people criminalized for self-managing an abortion is the exact profile of people most likely to be unable to access clinic-based abortion care. These are the same people who are most likely to be subject to our punitive legal systems, including people living in poverty, people of color, and immigrants.
Currently, only two states, Nevada and South Carolina, have laws criminalizing self-managing an abortion. But the majority of the cases, which were spread across 26 states, arose in a state with no law outlawing self-managed abortion. Instead, people were charged with a variety of crimes never intended to apply to self-managing abortions, such as mishandling of human remains, concealment of a birth, and even homicide. In fact, a homicide charge was considered in 43 percent of the cases. This was twice as likely to be the case when the accused was a person of color.
Finally, Haley asserts that Democrats are inflaming the issue: “Democrats use fear and Republicans use judgment.” But Democrats aren’t using “fear.” They report the facts.
When a 10-year-old rape victim was forced to travel from Ohio to Indiana to obtain an abortion (for which her OB/GYN was eventually reprimanded and fined), it is not “fearmongering” to discuss it. When the Texas Supreme Court prohibited a woman facing a life-threatening pregnancy from obtaining an abortion in the state of Texas, it was not fearmongering to discuss it. When an Alabama woman was denied an abortion under state law even though her fetus was given a “negligible” chance of survival, it was not fearmongering to discuss it.
These patients’ stories comprise painful facts. Facts that must be discussed.
Pointing out that in June 2022, a right-wing Supreme Court majority—with justices all appointed by Republican presidents—erased a fundamental constitutional right that anyone with a uterus had enjoyed for over a half-century is not fearmongering. That is a fact.
When it comes to abortion, Republicans like Haley and Trump are caught in a trap of their own creation. Unfortunately for them, there is simply no escape.