Republican senators won't say if they support rape and incest exceptions to abortion bans: 'Come back and see me after the Supreme Court rules'

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John Kennedy, Rick Scott, and Joni Ernst
Republican Sens. John Kennedy of Louisiana, Rick Scott of Florida, and Joni Ernst of IowaJim Lo Scalzo/Pool/AFP via Getty Images; Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty; Anna Moneymaker/Getty
  • Multiple Senate Republicans refused to tell Insider whether they support exceptions to abortion bans.

  • Their comments come in the wake of the publication of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning abortion rights.

  • "Come back and see me after the Supreme Court rules," GOP Sen. John Kennedy offered.

Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has stood behind anti-abortion views with exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, and protecting the life of the pregnant person.

But some Senate Republicans refused to tell Insider whether they support such exceptions in the wake of the publication of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling protecting abortion rights.

"We don't have a decision by the United States Supreme Court yet, all we have is a leak which is as despicable as it is dangerous," Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy told reporters. "You're asking me a hypothetical question. Come back and see me after the Supreme Court rules."

Sen. Rick Scott, the leader of the Senate GOP's campaign arm, offered only, "Let's see what the decision is, and then let's see what states do."

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, the only woman in the Senate GOP's leadership, refused to even consider the subject.

"Again, I'm not projecting ahead," Ernst told reporters. "We need to go through the process with the Supreme Court ... but let's focus on what happened which is putting the justices in jeopardy with public opinion when they are an independent judicial institution and what this does to the institution. It is absolutely wrong."

Ernst is planning to introduce legislation that would ban abortions after six weeks, a point at which many people don't yet know they're pregnant, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

As The Los Angeles Times previously reported, top Republicans once defended such exceptions to abortion bans for decades. But starting with Alabama's 2019 anti-abortion law, the ground began to shift. The Alabama law's authors pointedly drafted the law without exceptions for rape or incest as a way to increase the likelihood that it would end up before the Supreme Court.

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah at a hearing on Capitol Hill on January 11, 2022.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of UtahGreg Nash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The high court is currently considering Mississippi's anti-abortion law that effectively bans most abortions after 15 weeks. Their law also excludes exceptions for abortions in the case of rape or incest. Politico obtained a draft majority opinion Monday night that would uphold Mississippi's law by explicitly overturning abortion rights precedents rooted in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Senate Democrats have highlighted that an explicit repeal of Roe v. Wade would mean these laws and others like it could become reality. Sen. Debbie Stabenow pointed out that her state of Michigan would revert to a 1931 law that bans abortion without exceptions for rape or incest. Instead, the law only has an exception to save the life of the pregnant woman.

"Imagine what this would mean for a 12-year-old in Michigan who is raped?" Stabenow said on the steps of the US Capitol. "Who should decide what's best for this 12-year-old? The girl and her family working with their own doctor based on their own faith or a right-wing Supreme Court and Republicans in the United States Senate?"

Even still, the most senior Senate Republican pushed back on the notion that his party is moving away from supporting exceptions to abortion bans.

"I don't know that the Republican Party is moving away," Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday.

There are still Republican lawmakers who support such exceptions. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, said that he still supports such exceptions. But, he added, it's "impossible to predict" how various states will move forward.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and former presidential candidate, has previously opposed exceptions for rape or incest, but wouldn't repeat those views on Tuesday. But he has supported legislation with exceptions out of political expediency to getting abortion restrictions passed.

"My position on abortion has been stated repeatedly," Rubio said. "You can look it up, it's online. I'm not opining on any decision on the court that hasn't been made yet. This is all just an effort to try to intimidate the court and start a near-riot outside of the court building to try to scare judges and justices."

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, who also supports exceptions, said he wasn't sure that he can "speak for the entirety of the Republican Party."

And some lawmakers just refused to explicitly answer repeated questions.

"I believe that we should support pregnant women, unborn children, and register our policy beliefs through our elected state officials," said Indiana Sen. Todd Young, a former leader of the Senate GOP's campaign arm.

Perhaps, though, clarity might be coming soon.

"I'll have a statement for you later today," Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey said.

His later statement did not mention whether he supports exceptions to abortion bans. He previously voted for legislation that would have a rape or incest exception provided that the person in question does certain things such as obtain counseling or medical treatment or in the case of a minor that they report their alleged rape or incest to law enforcement.

Read the original article on Business Insider