by Scott Shields, Tue Mar 07, 2006 at 11:02:03 AM EST
Following up on last night's post about the South Dakota and Mississippi abortion bans, Josh Goodman of Governing magazine's '13th Floor' blog sent me a link to his analysis of state abortion law in a post-Roe America. Relying heavily on data from NARAL, Goodman concludes that "23 states would be likely to ban most abortions, 20 states would keep abortion legal... and 7 states would be battlegrounds...."
While it's a pretty solid piece of research, I'm surprised at some of the conclusions he reaches. For example, I have trouble accepting that Rhode Island would be likely to ban abortion, while Kansas would not. Since he uses Kansas as an example, I'll let him speak for himself on his methodology.
I took into account natural legislative inertia -- it's much easier to maintain the legal status quo than it is to change it. Look at Kansas, where there is currently no abortion ban on the books. NARAL lists the Kansas House as anti-choice, the Senate as mixed-choice and Governor Kathleen Sebelius as pro-choice. It would be difficult to pass an abortion ban in Kansas because Sebelius and the Senate could block it.
I would suggest that he's overlooking the social impact of an upending of Roe v. Wade. It's not as if such an event would occur in a vacuum where the "natural legislative inertia" would remain intact. Quite to the contrary, the end of Roe would likely bring a blizzard of activism on both sides of the issue. And in Kansas, even though I understand Goodman's take, I think the ensuing anti-choice uproar would push the state to join the ranks of abortion outlawing states.
Ultimately, with few exceptions, like swapping Kansas and Tennessee into the ban category, I'd say that Goodman's analysis sounds about right, at least numbers-wise (23 ban, 20 don't ban, and 7 on the fence). That means that if Roe is overturned (something that won't happen over night), the nation will be split about 50/50 when it comes to outlawing choice, with a number of states imposing varying levels of restriction. Like I said earlier, this is no longer an issue that exists merely in the abstract.