Polls show most Americans favor some level of access to abortion but not all Democrat presidential candidates are

Earlier this month, Ohio congressman and Irish American Tim Ryan threw his hat into the three-ring circus that the 2020 presidential race will surely be.

By my count, that makes it an even 100 folks -- give or take a dozen or so -- vying for the honor to earn some dumb nickname from President Donald Trump.

Ryan’s hopes for victory are not high, though as a mid-westerner who represents parts of blue-collar Youngstown and Akron, he could certainly make an interesting contribution to the race.

“Who can win western PA?” Ryan said in The New York Times. “Who can win Ohio? Who can win Michigan, Wisconsin?”

What’s he saying there?  That East Coasters like Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders don’t exactly have the common touch?

Ryan may not win.  But on this he is certainly correct.

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Here’s another interesting thing about Ryan.

As the Times notes: “For much of his career, (Ryan) opposed abortion, citing his Catholic faith. But in 2015, he wrote an op-ed for The Akron Beacon Journal in which he said that after speaking with women about their reasons for choosing to have abortions, he had ‘come to believe that we must trust women and families -- not politicians -- to make the best decision for their lives.’”

The same week Ryan entered the 2020 presidential race, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into state law what is known as a “heartbeat bill.”

The new law bans “abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy…after the detection of a fetal heartbeat at a point before many women are even aware they are pregnant,” as USA Today put it.

All sorts of court challenges, of course, are going to follow -- which is exactly what pro-life activists want.

“The heartbeat bill is the next incremental step in our strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis told the A.P., referring to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion. 

“While other states embrace radical legislation to legalize abortion on demand through the ninth month of pregnancy, Ohio has drawn a line and continues to advance protections for unborn babies.”

On the surface, this may be good news for Democrats like Ryan.  Polls show most Americans favor some level of access to abortion, so anyone not named Trump can hit the campaign trail saying that if the reproductive choice is important at all to you -- or your daughter, or your granddaughter -- vote for the Dems. 

This is a tad uncomfortable for Irish Catholics like Ryan -- and Joe Biden -- but that simply means they’re like millions of other pro-choice Catholics.

Still, problems loom.  First up, pro-lifers are right to be itching for a legal fight, given the current line-up at the Supreme Court.  And what if feisty but frail octogenarian Ruth Bader Ginsberg is forced to step down for some reason?

And there’s more here than just party politics.  Democrats, progressives, and others who fear anti-choice legislation have to acknowledge that one reason it’s become easy to chip away at abortion rights is because those rights rest on a flimsy foundation. 

Roe v. Wade is not about the right to abortion, but instead the right to privacy -- or at least for the state to stay out of certain sensitive situations.  You can see why some might support this.  You can also see why some might say: Well, I guess I can do anything I want as long as it’s in private.

All of which sidesteps the morality of abortion. I absolutely support a woman’s right to choose. But that does not mean every opponent of abortion wants to turn America into The Handmaid’s Tale.

At least pro-lifers know what they want.  Democrats, on the other hand, are not passionate about “privacy.”  They are passionate about people being able to control their own bodies. 

Their task, then, is to translate that clearly into law, and let the American people decide if that makes them “radical.”

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