Should we stop worrying about Roe v. Wade?

Alito's confirmation is progressing, but Newsweek's Eleanor Clift says liberals shouldn't fret. Why don't we feel better?

Published January 13, 2006 9:14PM (EST)

With Samuel Alito's confirmation seeming like a lock, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift tries to reassure those of us who are afraid this means the end of Roe v. Wade and the beginning of absolute presidential power. Sure, Alito wants to overturn Roe; you can tell from the way he "refused to say whether he agreed with the characterization of the 1973 Roe ruling as 'settled law,' that couldn't be re-examined." But Clift says she's heard the whispers from GOP HQ, and most Republicans don't want Roe overturned at all.

"Now that the GOP is within striking distance of overturning Roe, they're having second thoughts. The public is not ready to abandon the landmark case legalizing abortion, and neither is the Republican Party. They used abortion as a wedge issue because the politics worked; they really didn't think abortion would ever be banned."

Clift quotes an anonymous pro-choice Republican activist as saying, "If Roe were overturned, we'd be electing Democrats as far as the eye can see."

And that's pretty much what she predicts will happen. The GOP will try to pull back from the brink, but Alito won't get the memo and Roe will be overturned. There will be a huge backlash that will "crack open the Republican coalition in the country and on Capitol Hill," pro-choice Republicans will come out of the woodwork and be more reasonable, and Democrats will triumph politically.

But, oh yeah: In the meantime, "the battle moves back to state legislatures, and some places ... would outlaw abortions while other states, like New York and California, would be decried by the Right as 'abortion mills.'"

Um, OK. I'm all for taking the long view, but what about what Clift's scenario does to the millions of women who live in states where abortion would likely be banned? So far, I'm still not feeling reassured.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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