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Donna Crane Headshot

What Would Really Happen If Abortion Was Left to the States

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My eyes are rolling as I watch the cable channels and hear representatives of the John McCain campaign suggest that, even though McCain has consistently called for the overturn of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, his position simply means that the issue of a woman's right to privacy would go back to the states.

There are so many things wrong with this McCain-generated-campaign spin designed to appeal to moderate voters, so let's break it down in the following ways:

First, in order for the issue to go to the states, Roe would have to be overturned. (Details, details.)

Second, the reversal of Roe would clear the way for a Congress currently dominated by anti-choice politicians to ban abortion and thus override any state laws guaranteeing a woman's right to choose.

Here is a question for you, John McCain (and those of you who support him): In which states should the right to privacy exist and in which states should politicians have control over personal, private medical decisions? This question isn't out of the blue. Here is what we know:

Several states have near-total abortion bans already on the books that will become enforceable if Roe is overturned:

* 15 states currently have unconstitutional and unenforceable near-total bans on abortion already on the books, either from before Roe (13 states) or in the case of two states (LA and UT) from the early 1990s when they seized on a close vote in the Supreme Court to try to overturn Roe. These bans may become enforceable if Roe falls: AL, AZ, AR, CO, DE, LA, MA, MI, MS, NM, OK, UT, VT, WV, and WI.

Total states where abortion bans will be in effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned = 15

Some other states have "trigger" bans that will take effect if Roe is overturned:

* 4 states have laws that would impose near-total criminal bans on abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade (sometimes known as "trigger" bans): LA, MS, ND, and SD.

That gives us two additional states not amongst those 15 states (from above) with near-total bans already on the books.

Total states where abortion bans will be in effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned = 17.

Several states have fully anti-choice governors and legislatures that could pass laws outlawing abortion if Roe is overturned:

* 13 states have anti-choice legislatures and governors and would likely outlaw abortion if Roe falls: AL, ID, IN, LA, MS, MO, NE, ND, RI, SD, TX, UT, and WV.

That gives us 6 additional states not amongst those with abortion bans.

Total states where abortion bans will be in effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned = 23.

Therefore, the total number of states where choice is at risk if Roe v. Wade is overturned: 23 states... or 46 percent of all states!

When John McCain, Sarah Palin (who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest), other campaign operatives or conservative commentators attempt to soften McCain-Palin's extreme anti-Roe position by implying that overturning Roe is a simple exercise in states' rights, it really means that the right to privacy vanishes for many American women.