There is a school of thought that promotes a practical approach to problem solving: Once you identify the problem, skip the hand-wringing and recriminations and move directly to possible solutions.
That approach seems particularly appropriate in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs decision, which overturned the half-century abortion rights ruling in Roe v. Wade. Rather than obsessing over the loss through demonstrations, rants and finger pointing — which help vent emotion but do very little to address the issue — focus on the development of solutions for the problem.
That’s the approach President Joe Biden took on the issue last week. “I believe we have to codify Roe vs Wade in the law, and the way to do that is to make sure the Congress votes to do that,” he said. In other words, Biden wants to establish a federal right to abortion under the Roe standard.
With anti-abortion laws going into effect in red states, and mounting concern about abortion rights around the country, the enactment of a federal law on abortion and privacy rights is needed. But given the 50-50 partisan divide in the Senate, it will be difficult to attain — particularly in light of the Senate filibuster rule of procedure which calls for a supermajority to cut off debate. Biden, a Senate institutionalist who respects the filibuster rule, wants an exception here — similar to the exception already in place for the Senate’s confirmation of judicial nominees, which allows confirmation by a simple majority. We agree with that approach for the limited purpose of reestablishing abortion rights under a federal standard.
But Democrats may not have the votes. Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have signaled that they oppose a change in the filibuster on the abortion issue. And though Biden has said that he would be “happy to go straight around” objections from them should the Democrats prevail in November, the projection of a Democratic Senate majority following the coming mid-terms appears to be wishful thinking.
So, the time to act is now, with focus on Manchin and Sinema and upon possibly sympathetic Republican moderates on this issue. That won’t be easy. But focusing on a solution has the potential to be more effective than endless hours of demonstration, recrimination and continued complaining about the heightened conservative tilt of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Here, the feds can learn from many of their state counterparts: For example, in the Mid-Atlantic area, three states — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — have moved to protect abortion rights. In Maryland, the right to an abortion has been a state law for three decades. Abortion is legal in Virginia up to the end of the second trimester. And Pennsylvania allows abortions up to the 24th week of a pregnancy.
Whatever your position on the issue, we urge you to express your view with your vote in the upcoming primaries and general elections. Don’t sit this one out. JE