The ink on the 1973 Roe v Wade decision was still dripping when religious conservatives, indeed virtually conservatives of all stripes, made a simple but solemn vow. That was that they would do everything within and without the law to overturn the decision and make right to life supreme again in America. They were almost as good as their word. They picketed hectored, heckled, and harassed women at countless family planning clinics throughout the country.
They badgered GOP presidents to issue executive orders barring the federal government from funding virtually any group or agency that even uttered the word abortion in its programs and services. It got states and courts to hack away at the term when life begins and bar abortions for women who are pregnant even one minute past that bogus legalistic time frame. They got successive GOP presidential conventions to put hardline anti-abortion pledges in GOP Convention Planks.
Despite all this, they have still not been able to fulfill their solemn pledge to get the SCOTUS to totally dump Roe. They just need that one or two more judges on the high court to finally say no to it. Trump knows that, the GOP has always known that, and the Democrats have always feared that that day would come when they'd have those votes. It's this fear that drives the ferocious war over Trump's pick to replace retiring judge Anthony Kennedy.
The Federalist Society that vetted and hand delivered the list of possible picks that Trump plucks a judge from made sure that all are solid in their legal, and even personal, belief that abortion is a bad thing and has to go. The judges have either rendered opinions in cases that touched on some aspect of the abortion issue or made clear in writings that their rulings will tightly conform to the strictest of strict construction of law. Some openly boast that they are originalists; meaning they will not move one jot past the meaning of the Constitution when it was written in their rulings.
The stark realization that Roe is in mortal danger with Trump's pick sent a couple of GOP female senators scurrying to the press mics to warn that any nominee that openly said they'd hammer Roe might be DOA in their eyes and their vote. Trump played it cagey and claimed that he did not ask any of his finalists about their views on abortion. He double-downed on that and loudly declared that it was probably a matter best left to the states anyway. He knows better than that. States such as Deep blue, Democratic California and New York will never tightly restrict, let alone outlaw abortion. Even though states such as Mississippi and Kentucky put the clamps on abortion services, abortion is still an option and available to women in other states.
So, it still comes back to what the federal government can or can't do in limiting, or scrapping abortion. This brings the matter right back to the SCOTUS and Roe. And for conservatives that means getting one more vote needed to nail Roe. Conservatives fight fierce court battles over unions, corporations, affirmative action, health, and education issues, or limiting federal powers. But Roe is different. It is an emotional issue that millions of conservatives feel passionately about. They have been the backbone of the GOP for decades. They are the ones the GOP leans heavily on to pack the polls in the handful of must win states that determine who sits in the Oval Office.
Without their votes en masse, no GOP presidential candidate can win. This was the case with 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Neither sufficiently passed the abortion litmus test to the satisfaction of religious conservatives and their leaders. So, they stayed home in droves. Trump didn't exactly set their hearts on fire either. But the mere thought of rock solid pro-Choice Hillary Clinton sitting in the White House sent terror through their ranks. They held their noses and grudgingly voted for Trump.
Now with the 2018 mid-term elections looming big, and a 2020 presidential election not far behind that, packs of votes from conservatives are needed again. Trump and the GOP know that. The best way to ensure that they'll show up in droves again is to give them a big victory with the SCOTUS pick. The victory being getting one of their own on the high court who will give them the deciding vote to do away with Roe. The stakes in getting the judge who will cast that vote go beyond abortion. It has colossal political consequences for the GOP. This is why the name of the game in the SCOTUS battle is Roe.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.