Opinion: Abortion suddenly takes center stage in 2022

050322 Atlanta: Dozens of protesters march from Centennial Olympic Park to the Georgia Capitol during a rally to defend the right to abortion on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Atlanta.    “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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050322 Atlanta: Dozens of protesters march from Centennial Olympic Park to the Georgia Capitol during a rally to defend the right to abortion on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Not since Chief Justice Roger Taney tipped off President-Elect James Buchanan about the outcome of the Dred Scott decision in 1857 have we had as much controversy about a leak from the U.S. Supreme Court as we’ve seen this week on abortion.

Both parties immediately claimed they could gain political momentum from any Supreme Court ruling to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision — but what do the past 49 years show us?

Since the Roe decision was handed down, there has been substantial activism and political energy in both parties — but abortion opponents have seen recent success in efforts to chip away at the decision.

The yearly Right to Life marches in Washington, D.C. have kept the faithful hoping for change, as have the legislative fights over partial-birth abortion and other abortion restrictions — which have often provided incremental GOP victories in Congress and bigger victories at the state level.

Both parties swiftly staked out their ground in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court leak.

“Life is a constitutional right,” said U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Augusta. “Abortion isn’t.”

“Make no mistake,” said U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, “women are under attack.”

Worried about the future course of the Supreme Court, Democrats in Congress had already pressed ahead with a bill to codify the Roe v. Wade decision.

“We must enshrine abortion rights into law,” said U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta.

While the bill passed the House on a mainly party-line vote, supporters are short of a majority in the Senate — and certainly don’t have 60 votes to break a GOP filibuster, leaving Democrats unable to get anything done.

“Women’s private reproductive decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor,” said U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

With Congress in gridlock, the fight could shift to state legislatures, making it an immediate issue in this year’s race for Governor.

“When I’m Governor, Georgia will be the safest place in America for the unborn,” said Republican candidate David Perdue.

“As the next Governor of Georgia, I will defend the right to an abortion and fight for reproductive justice,” declared Democrat Stacey Abrams.

There are always wild cards in an election year. Would a Supreme Court ruling striking down Roe v. Wade be that kind of event?

An AJC poll back in January showed 68% of Georgia voters wanted Roe v. Wade to remain in place, mirroring national polls.

Democrats hope they can translate that into votes this year.

“The elections this November will have consequences,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer declared, “because the rights of a hundred million women are now on the ballot.”

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com