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Where will conservatives focus their political energy now Roe has been overturned?


All this weekend, we're having conversations with people who are thinking about what comes next now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. We're hearing views on what this means for the courts, for people who can get pregnant, from medical providers. And now we want to hear from a conservative writer and analyst.

This Supreme Court decision was the culmination of a 50-year effort by mainly Republican conservatives, the focus of fundraising, organizing, political strategy, judicial nominations. In many places, it became a litmus test that candidates had to pass. So where will conservatives and Republicans focus their political energy now that the overturning of Roe has been achieved?

For that, we're joined by Mona Charen. She is a conservative columnist and policy editor of The Bulwark. That's a nonpartisan political newsletter, and she's with us now. Mona Charen, thanks so much for being with us.

MONA CHAREN: My pleasure, Michel.

MARTIN: What are the conversations right now among conservatives about where to focus efforts moving forward? And I'm interested in conservatives more broadly - I mean, those for whom abortion has been a primary issue and those for whom it may not have been.

CHAREN: Well, first of all, we're going to discover things about people as a result of this decision. It's possible that a lot of people have been saying that they're pro - you know, pro-life and they want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, but if it actually comes down to it, you know, in their state and in their community, they may have a real preference that's different. We'll see.

What concerns me is that the existence of Roe seems to me to have permitted both sides of this issue to radicalize. So instead of trying to find that middle ground, you have places like Texas, you know, imposing laws that are Draconian and that, for example, pay bounties to people to sort of spy on women and find out if they might be seeking abortions. It's going to be a challenge for the pro-life movement in particular to show in the coming weeks and months that they want to help women, that they don't want to be punitive.

MARTIN: Does it concern you in any way that the Supreme Court's decision could threaten other rights that are important to some conservatives? I'm thinking about parental rights or even same-sex marriage, which a majority of Republicans support.

CHAREN: Here's where I thought that the minority argument really was persuasive. They said, look; you cannot say that just because this concerns abortion and not these other matters that it somehow has - you know, it's somehow separate and insulated from the reasoning. And so they say it could happen that these other things would be called into question.

What I would say is abortion is different in this sense. There's a pretty broad consensus in America today in favor of freely available contraception. I think it would be awfully hard to find state legislatures, for example, that wanted to outlaw the sale of contraceptives to anyone. And further, I think that gay marriage is very well established now, and I would be surprised to find any state legislature that would want to impose restrictions if that were overturned.

MARTIN: Well, to that end, though, I mean, after the draft opinion was leaked suggesting that Roe v. Wade would be overturned, there was an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll conducted that found that two-thirds of Americans say they don't support or they did not support overturning Roe. That is a majority, you know, of the country. And if - but that was not - clearly not relevant to the majority in the Supreme Court. So then why would people then believe that public opinion would be persuasive there?

CHAREN: My point is that when the Supreme Court is deciding as a matter of law whether a state legislature can impose restrictions on a right, say of interracial marriage or selling contraceptives or abortion, all of those matters, when the court decides, it's saying whether or not this is a constitutional right and if it's a constitutional right, the state legislature cannot legislate. It's a completely different thing to ask, will state legislatures legislate? That's where public opinion becomes key. And my point is not about the court. And, by the way, I think the court should never take public opinion into account. That's not its role. But for state legislatures, it very much is whether, you know, pressure from the people in various states will cause them to rethink their position on abortion.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, it's not a secret - I think people would agree that Republicans have succeeded in making abortion a voting issue, or Republicans/conservatives have made abortion a voting issue in the way that the left has not. I mean, it seems to have - this sort of a broader basket of issues seems to sort of be animating, which is sometimes to the despair of Democratic strategists - you know, to some. Do you think that this - going back to your first point, does this make abortion rights a voting issue in the midterm elections?

CHAREN: I think the 2022 vote is already baked in, I'm afraid. But going forward, it very much will be a voting issue for Democrats, in my opinion, because the reason Democrats didn't get agitated and vote on the issue of the court is because they felt that the right to abortion was secure and they didn't think they had anything to worry about. Now they know what they do, and therefore, the action switches to their state legislatures and to the Congress. And suddenly they have a lot to lose, and so they are, I think, going to be very motivated to vote on this question.

MARTIN: That was conservative columnist Mona Charen. She's the host of the "Beg To Differ" podcast. Mona Charen, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing these insights with us.

CHAREN: My pleasure, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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