When asked about his position on a national abortion ban, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said something noteworthy: What he really believes, which is that the states should decide.
Hutchinson was asked on ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday what he thought about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comment to USA Today that a national abortion ban is “possible,” depending on what the votes look like.
His reply was, “I think that’s inconsistent with what we’ve been fighting for for four decades, which is that we wanted the Roe vs. Wade reversed, and the authority to return to the states. So as a matter of principle, that’s where it should be.”
Hutchinson was asked about the issue because it seems likely the Supreme Court will soon overturn the Roe vs. Wade court decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
The governor also said there could be constitutional issues with a national ban.
Hutchinson has signed all the pro-life legislation he’s been handed, and those laws enabled Arkansas to be ranked as the nation’s most pro-life state two years in a row by Americans United for Life. He’s participated in the March for Life, held in freezing January weather, year after year. He was running for office, and often losing, as an anti-abortion Republican for years when Arkansas was dominated by Democrats.
He is pro-life. But the arguments he was making were those of an attorney, which he is. He was talking about the issue as a matter of constitutional law and constitutional principles. The Constitution doesn’t specifically say anything about abortion, but it does have an entire amendment, the 10th, that talks about the powers of the states.
Specifically, it says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The 10th Amendment fell into disrepute in some quarters because “states’ rights” was used as a justification for slavery and segregation.
But it’s a useful principle, and there are Reagan Republicans like Hutchinson who would like to see it make a comeback. Everything doesn’t have to be the same in a nation as diverse and divided as ours. Maybe one way to hold this country together is to let more issues be decided at the state level based on states’ cultures and values. Arkansas is not California, and vice versa. Over time, ideas and policies will immigrate from one state to another. And if they don’t, people will.
That’s the 10th Amendment argument. There are arguments against it in certain circumstances, as mentioned above. Some things should be universal.
A political challenge for Hutchinson is that most of the people he’s been marching alongside on those cold January days weren’t there because they want to see abortion decided at the state level. They weren’t holding up signs quoting the 10th Amendment. They were marching because they sincerely believe abortion is the taking of a human life, whether the unborn’s mother lives in Arkansas or California.
That’s an important bloc of voters in the Republican Party, particularly for someone considering running for president, as Hutchinson is doing.
Generally, you’d expect him to engage in what’s known as “virtue signaling,” where you do what it takes to make it clear what team you’re on. The alternative is to talk around the question, as McConnell sort of did when he said a national ban would be “possible.” Anything’s possible, right?
Instead, Hutchinson made a 10th Amendment argument, which he’ll have to defend in some places if he runs for president. After all, if the Supreme Court does overturn Roe vs. Wade, then that’s where we’re going to be. He’ll be defending the status quo.
Abortion is probably the country’s most difficult issue. For many Americans, it’s ending a human life. For others, it’s a necessary women’s right. Many Americans are somewhere in between, but many of those are not going to base their votes upon it.
Hutchinson’s argument – let the states decide – is kind of a middle ground position, which is not the same as being wishy-washy. But with abortion, more than any other issue, the middle ground is not common ground for many Americans.
This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: Governor states a state-based position on abortion | Steve Brawner