Debate Primer: Be Ready to Debunk Palin’s Answers on Roe

Donna Crane

Sarah Palin is trying to sell her extreme position on reproductive health to moderates. Break through the talking points in tonight's debate with this guide to the facts behind the spin.

Sarah Palin’s interview with
Katie Couric
offers frightening news for advocates of reproductive rights every time a new segment appears.

Do we begin with Palin’s explanation of her opposition
to abortion
even as Couric asked her, if a 15-year-old were raped by her father?
That sent shivers down America’s collective spine.

What about Palin’s claim that she
supports contraception
but not emergency contraception? Governor, with all due respect,
could we recommend a refresher course in biology?  Emergency contraception
is just that – contraception.  Works the same way
as other birth control

the most troubling claim Palin makes on the topic of reproductive rights: she says she thinks the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade
was wrong because "I believe that states should have
more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas
." [The Associated Press,
October 1, 2008]

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Let’s break down the campaign spin. In order for the issue
to go to the states, Roe would have to be overturned. The reversal of
would then 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

Here, then, is a follow-up question: In which states
should the right to privacy exist and in which states should politicians
have control over personal, private medical decisions? 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.

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

(Credit is due here to my
NARAL colleagues Sarah Rich and Kate Vlach for their excellent research.)

In reviewing these
stark facts above I am reminded of the way in which Palin tries to soften
her position by suggesting she would
"counsel" rape survivors not to consider
. In
a country (or state) where abortion is illegal, with no exceptions even
in cases of rape or incest, which is Palin’s position, a "counseling
session" is a moot point.

Let me counsel all Americans
who value the right to privacy to use these facts to understand what an extreme anti-abortion position truly looks like.

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