For the endless presidential power debate, I wonder how it is people think that abortion is still legal in the United States of America. Is its availability severely curtailed? Sure. Has the core holding of Roe v. Wade been substantially eroded? Obviously. Has illegal terrorist violence reduced the practical availability of abortions beyond what’s been done through the political process? Clearly. But still, we have over 800,000 abortions per year in the United States and we have over 200 abortions per 1,000 live births, each and every one of them legal.
That’s despite Ronald Reagan and the big GOP gains in the 1980 election. It’s despite twelve years of Republican control of the White House. It’s despite taking the majority in Congress in 1994, despite eight years of George W Bush, despite Tom DeLay, despite a wide range of Supreme Court appointments, etc. It’s possible to argue that all this talk of banning abortion has been bad-faith. But it seems quite clear to me from the sheer variety of abortion restrictions that are promulgated every time conservatives make gains in state legislatures, that political opposition to legal abortion is quite sincere.
My working hypothesis is that we have hundreds of thousands of legal abortions every year in the United States because major policy shifts are difficult to undertake. Sometimes your initiatives are foiled by determined opponents (Robert Bork) or something weird happens (Texas sends a pro-choice Republican woman to the Senate) or you miscalculate (David Souter). You run into agenda crowding issues. You didn’t do something as modest as defunding Planned Parenthood in 2003 when you had the chance because you were working on other priorities.