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Port: Would North Dakotans vote to keep abortion legal?

Now that Roe v. Wade is no more, and the democratic process has engaged, we're going to be learning a lot about how Americans feel about abortion. I think we're going to find out that they are not nearly so pro-life or pro-choice as we've been led to believe.

Anti Abortion.jpg
Anti-abortion protestors hold signs toward pedestrians and passing traffic Wednesday, July 11, 2018, outside the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo.
Erin Bormett / Forum News Service
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MINOT, N.D. — The U.S. Supreme Court's decision on abortion has roiled American culture and politics.

It's also been the genesis of a lot of very stupid journalism.

Case in point, David Leonhardt, writing for The New York Times , argues that a recent vote in politically red Kansas to keep a prohibition on abortion bans on the books was an example of Americans "defying the Supreme Court," as his headline states.

It wasn't.

It was, in fact, precisely the opposite.


The court wants the people to vote. "The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the Dobbs decision , noting that Roe v. Wade and other precedent struck down by Dobbs "arrogated that authority."

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Another very stupid article from the Times sees reporter Nate Cohn doing "analysis" — in this context meaning something akin to scapulimancy — to extrapolate the demographic characteristics of the Kansas vote to other states.

He arrived at this conclusion: "If abortion rights wins 59% support in Kansas, it’s doing even better than that nationwide."

Maybe that's right. Maybe it's not.

The Kansas vote was odd in that voters were asked to choose between the status quo and something the state's lawmakers might do in the future. Had an alternative to the status quo been defined as a policy one could read and consider, the voters might have cast their ballots differently.

When other states make abortion policy in the future, through their legislatures or at the ballot box, there will be concrete legal language before them. The Kansas vote just isn't comparable.

Also, those votes will have different people running the campaigns, they'll be happening in different contexts, etc.

The idea that The New York Times can play oracle, reading the chicken bones of the Kansas vote to make a solid prognostication on how things will go around the rest of the country, is absurd.


But let's play along. Just for a moment.

For what it's worth, the Times predicts that 53% of North Dakotans would support a ballot initiative protecting abortion rights. This brings us to an important question: the wishcasting of liberal national news reporters aside, would North Dakotans cast their ballots to change the near-total state ban on abortion that's set to take effect later this month?

If the right proposal were in front of them, I think they would.

If the pro-choice crowd can marshal some of their more extreme views and offer a reasonable compromise — say, a ban on abortion after 12 weeks with some exceptions, something that would restrict abortion without completely eliminating access — a majority of North Dakota voters could very well go for it.

Now that Roe v. Wade is no more, and the democratic process has engaged, we're going to be learning a lot about how Americans feel about abortion.

I think we're going to find out that they are not nearly so pro-life or pro-choice as we've been led to believe.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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