Three Republican House members from Washington, two of them women, have joined 225 other GOP colleagues in an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion prior to viability.
The justices are reviewing a Mississippi law that bans all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions made for rape or incest. Republican lawmakers, and a dozen GOP governors, have asked the Supremes to remove federal protection of abortions and give states full sway to regulate or prohibit the procedure.
U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dan Newhouse, and Jaime Herrera Beutler joined the brief, along with such GOP chieftains as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, and House whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana.
McMorris Rodgers is a longtime anti-abortion activist who has spoken at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., which takes place each year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Four Republican senators from the Northwest – Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Steve Daines, R-Montana and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska – joined in the brief.
The Supreme Court has usually stood by the doctrine of Stare Decisis, roughly translated as “stand by the thing decided.” But Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have made clear their disagreements with Roe v. Wade. Three Trump appointees have joined the Supreme Court in the past four years.
Washington voted to legalize abortion in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade. The drive to legalize was led by moderate Republicans then ascendant in the state party. A 1991 initiative, passed by voters, strengthened the right of choice.
In their amicus brief, drafted by Americans United for Life, the anti-abortion lawmakers argued: “Congress and the states have shown they are ready and able to address the issue in ways that reflect Americans’ varying viewpoints and are grounded in the science of fetal development and maternal health.” The brief argues that the Roe decision has maintained “a vise grip on abortion politics.”
Abortion rights would appear secure on the West Coast and in East Coast and New England states. The situation in the South and Midwest is far different. Texas has passed legislation that would close almost all clinics providing abortion services in the Lone Star State. A 2019 study by the Center for Reproductive Rights, entitled “What if Roe Fell,” predicted that 24 states would seek to impose some form of abortion ban.
Washington has its own divisions on the issue. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., have regularly used Planned Parenthood’s clinic on E. Madison Street for news conferences defending reproductive rights. The Washington Legislature has required that reproductive services be offered as part of women’s health plans.
In 2015, however, Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Pullman was destroyed by an arson fire, which has remained unsolved. The fire came in the wake of harsh condemnations of PP in Tweets by McMorris Rodgers, and a fiery speech to an anti-abortion rally in Spokane by far-right State Rep. Matt Shea.
The clinic serving Moscow-Pullman was rebuilt – prominent pro-choice Catholics helped raise the money – and the state’s first lady Trudi Inslee was present for its rededication.