Republicans worked for years to overturn Roe -- but now they're afraid to talk about it: analysis
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (C) arrives to speak during his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on April 26, 2022. (Jim WATSON / AFP)

Republicans are on the verge of accomplishing their decades-long goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, but few GOP lawmakers want to talk about it.

Senate GOP Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to engage in questions about the draft ruling and what it might mean for the future, and instead focused on criticizing the leaking of the draft Supreme Court opinion.

The Bulwark columnist William Saletan on Thursday examined McConnell's reluctance to celebrate his party's apparent victory.

"The answer is simple: He knows this issue is bad for his party," Saletan wrote. "Roe infuriated pro-life Americans and made pro-choice Americans complacent. Republican candidates could use the issue to rile up their base without risking an electoral backlash. But if Roe goes down, Americans who want to keep abortion legal will have to vote that way. And those Americans are a political majority."

Poll after poll shows most Americans want abortion to remain legal in most instances, and they say individual states should make abortions easier to obtain, and surveys consistently show that voters trust Democrats more on the issue than Republicans.

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"If the Court does overturn Roe, the most likely sequence is a series of punts," Saletan wrote. "First the Court punts the issue to lawmakers. Then Congress punts it to the states. Then governors and state legislators punt it to their voters."

That allows congressional Republicans to offload the political blowback to state legislatures and governors, who might then try to pass the issue off to voters themselves.

"By organizing or encouraging ballot measures, governors and legislators could extract themselves from the issue," Saletan wrote.

"That would be a fitting answer to the court’s withdrawal from the abortion debate," he concluded. "In its draft opinion, the court complains that Roe bypassed democracy, depriving pro-life citizens of the right to 'persuade their elected representatives to adopt policies consistent with their views.' The opinion concludes, in a tone of righteous beneficence, that 'the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives.' Don’t expect a thank-you note from the people’s representatives."