Cartoon: Abortion Should Be Decided By The States


If you like these cartoons, then support them on Patreon, where every day is hat day!


Obviously abortion rights are on everybody’s mind this week. The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision overturning Roe is horrifying but not surprising.

One argument that’s touched on in the draft opinion – an argument many anti-choice activists and politicians have been making for decades – is that abortion’s legality should be decided by the legislature of each state, not by the federal government. “Let each state decide.”

Their bad faith is as subtle as a herd of elephants. Republicans in Congress have never hesitated to use federal law to limit abortion access nationwide – such as when they passed the so-called “partial birth” abortion ban. Every member of the Supreme Court, and every Republican in Congress, knows that without Roe in their way they’re going to propose more nationwide bans.

But no matter what they do – and they will do enormous harm – this is not the end of abortion access in America.

Anna North writes:

…People who want to end a pregnancy [won’t] be completely without options. Abortion funds around the country would continue their work, in some cases helping patients travel to blue states to get the procedure. Community-based providers, who perform abortions outside the official medical system, would likely continue to operate. And self-managed abortion, in which people perform their own abortions with pills, would take a bigger role.

Preparing for that reality will require a lot from advocates and providers, from raising money to campaigning against laws that can send people to jail for self-managing an abortion. But people have been ending their pregnancies in America since long before Roe v. Wade or even abortion clinics existed, and a court decision isn’t going to stop them. It’s just going to change what their options — and the risks involved — look like.

In pragmatic terms, abortion bans can never truly ban abortion; but they can make abortion less available and more dangerous. That’s something anti-abortion activists seem perfectly comfortable with.


Abortion is way too large an issue to cover in one cartoon, and this cartoon is obviously narrowly focused on one specific wrinkle. I’m sure I’ll be producing more cartoons about abortion rights in the months ahead.

No promises (I’m not very good at controlling where my inspiration goes), but if there’s a particular facet of abortion rights you’d like to see a cartoon about, feel free to let me know in comments.


I’m not at all sure it comes across, but attempting to draw 1980s hair in panel one was so much fun. And yes, Reagan’s campaign did use the slogan “Let’s make America great again.” (The only thing Republicans believe in recycling is ideas.)


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows a different scene, with a different person or group of people talking to the viewer.

PANEL 1

A man with a “Reagan ’80: Make American Great Again” t-shirt and blonde hair in a mullet is talking with a somewhat angry expression, raising a forefinger to make his point. Next to him, a concerned-looking woman with a leather jacket and ENORMOUS hair is speaking with her hands clasped together.

CAPTION: 40 years before Roe v Wade is overturned.

MAN: Roe is wrong! Abortion is too important for the federal government to decide for everyone.

WOMAN: We should leave it to the states.

PANEL 2

A woman stands alone in front of a sidewalk; behind her is a patch of grass, a couple of trees, and a stone wall. She’s wearing a red skirt with a pattern of circles, and a t-shirt that says “GORE is a BORE.”  She’s smiling and talking with her palms out.

CAPTION: 20 years before Roe is overturned.

WOMAN: Without Roe, every state could make its own abortion policies.

WOMAN: Which is how it should be!

PANEL 3

This panel shows a crowd of white men. All of the men are wearing dress shirts, jackets, and neckties, except for one man who is in “Tea Party” cosplay, including a tricorn hat, although I’m not sure that anyone can tell it’s a tricorn hat because it turns out that tricorn hats are hard to draw.

In the center of the panel, one man is grinning big and speaking to the readers. He has glasses and parted blonde hair.

CAPTION: 10 years before Roe is overturned.

MAN: Let the states decide. That’s all we’re saying.

PANEL 4

A man and a women, both dressed in gender-typical business wear, are speaking to reporters; the reporters aren’t in panel, but we can see their hands holding microphones, which are pointed at the speakers. We can see in the background that we’re on the steps of some sort of fancy, large building with pillars and arches (I’m hoping people will see that and assume it’s a government building of some sort).

The man is smiling big and holding a little stack of papers. The woman is clasping her hands and speaking with an earnest expression.

CAPTION: Ten minutes after Roe is overturned.

MAN: Our new law bans abortion nationwide.

WOMAN: Abortion’s too important to be left to the states!


This cartoon on Patreon

This entry posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Cartooning & comics. Bookmark the permalink. 

26 Responses to Cartoon: Abortion Should Be Decided By The States

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    I should think that there is no more unanimity of thought on the issue of a nationwide ban on abortion in the pro-life faction than there is on the issue of how late in a woman’s term abortions should be permissible in the pro-choice crowd. I don’t think the people who say “Put the issue of abortion back into the States where it belongs” are the same people who say “Let’s have a Federal law to ban abortion nationwide.”

    Should the GOP take the House and Senate in the upcoming elections I would not at all be surprised to see a bill for a nationwide ban on abortions be introduced. I would be surprised to see it win a majority in the House and even more surprised to see it survive a filibuster in the Senate – even if the GOP ended up with 60 seats, which is pretty unlikely.

    Tea Party cosplay? I thought that was someone dressed up like Napoleon! And upon looking at it again I still do. Especially with the sash and the epaulets. The hat looks like a bicorne to me. Sorry.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    No, you’re right. Google image search failure on my part. Aaargh.

  3. 3
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    I don’t think the people who say “Put the issue of abortion back into the States where it belongs” are the same people who say “Let’s have a Federal law to ban abortion nationwide.”

    I do. These are the same people who told us SCOTUS would never overturn Roe. They were lying about that just the same as they’re lying about not wanting a Federal abortion ban.

  4. 4
    bcb says:

    The bad faith argument about “states’ rights” (for this issue as well as interracial and gay marriage) seems very similar to me to Republicans’ bad-faith claim about supporting “parental rights.” Republicans SAY they believe parents have an inalienable right to
    a)Completely control what medical care their kids get (no vaccine ‘mandates!’)
    b)Completely control what information their kids have access to (no Cathode Ray Tubes!)
    c)Control their kids’ sexuality and gender
    d)Force their kids to practice their religion

    …until they find out there are parents less bigoted than Republicans. They abruptly change their professed stance on parental rights as soon as they hear about parents who
    a)Want their kids to have the best health care possible
    b)Want their kids to get the best education possible
    c)Accept whatever their kids’ sexuality and gender are
    d)Aren’t Christian
    Republicans then suddenly think it’s the government’s job to decide all of those things, not the parents they pretend to support.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Tea Party cosplay? I thought that was someone dressed up like Napoleon! And upon looking at it again I still do. Especially with the sash and the epaulets. The hat looks like a bicorne to me. Sorry.

    That figure’s been redrawn. :-) Thanks for catching that!

  6. 6
    Joe in Australia says:

    I would be surprised to see [an abortion ban] win a majority in the House and even more surprised to see it survive a filibuster in the Senate

    The filibuster is an artefact of Senate rules. It can be changed with the support of a bare majority of senators – which is in fact what happened the other times it was changed. As for your disbelief that such a bill could pass the House, surely you realise that similar bills have passed State legislatures and each such bill further emboldens radical Republicans and silences their opposition. Of course it would pass the House, assuming Republicans win.

  7. 7
    Schroeder4213 says:

    The filibuster is an artefact of Senate rules. It can be changed with the support of a bare majority of senators – which is in fact what happened the other times it was changed.

    I am definitely in the minority here, but I don’t think Republicans would get rid of the legislative filibuster even for something they really believe in like restricting abortion. Probably some would! But probably not 50.

    I can’t remember who convinced me of this (maybe Ezra Klein?), but the filibuster is an inherently conservative doctrine, because (1) the Senate and electoral college are rigged to make large majorities easier for Republicans and (2) Democrats are more likely than Republicans to want to make big changes through positive legislation, whereas conservatives typically stand athwart history yelling stop.

    Yes, a lot fewer Republicans are conservative in the Burkean sense than used to be and a lot fewer are smart enough to act in their own self-interest. But I still think there would be less than 50 who support getting rid of the filibuster even with a large Republican majority.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    We’ll see how it goes. There’s definitely an argument that it’s to their advantage to keep the filibuster, at least for new legislation. But part of the question is how badly they want to repeal the ACA and scale back other programs like Social Security.

  9. 9
    Dianne says:

    A few random thoughts related to the comments so far:

    1. The Republicans are unquestionably going to win seats in Congress in the midterms. There have only been 3 or 4 times when the party in the White House has gained seats in Congress in the midterms and at least one of those was a technicality (the number of seats had increased, I think.) The question is whether they will gain enough seats to carry out their agenda. That I’m less sure of, but they might well. People are pissed at Biden for all sorts of things, including both those under and not under his control.
    2. The filibuster has not actually been used in decades. The Republicans threaten to filibuster and the Dems back down. I personally think they should make the jerks talk. The current set of Reps are whiny privileged little craps who may fold when they realize how uncomfortable it is to have to stand there and actually say something for hours at a time.
    3. No one, absolutely NO ONE, who is in favor of forced pregnancy is doing it out of anything but malice. It is a way to play out their desire to rape and murder and nothing else. They don’t care about the fetus (or embryo). They only want to control and harm. Sometimes I really wish there were a hell because they deserve to go to it.

  10. 10
    Eytan Zweig says:

    @9 – 2 is inaccurate; the democrats dont back down, but rather the filibuster rules have been revised multiple times so that it’s not actually possible to force a party to act on filibuster threats except in niche conditions. The current senate rules mean that a threat to filibuster is enough to block a law and the opposing party can’t do anything about it if they can’t muster 60 votes.

    As for 3, I don’t think that’s right either. When I was a teenager, I was pretty anti-abortion, because I believed I was pro-fetus, but really because I was just ignorant about what either position actually meant. I became strongly pro-abortion when I became educated. Not that I’m denying that the malice you describe exists, especially among the people in actual positions of power. But don’t underestimate how many people take terrible positions on any issue simply because they are uneducated, uninformed, or simply being controlled by others who tell them what to believe.

  11. 11
    Dianne says:

    @10:

    How does that work (the threat of filibuster being enough to block the law, I mean)? I’m not doubting your statement, but apparently I don’t know the current law and would like to correct that, if you’ve got time/energy to explain and/or point me to the information.

    Eh, I see your point. If you’ve heard nothing but MURDERED BABIES! your whole life it does seem reasonable to be against the thing you’re told, without any opposing view allowed, is murdering babies. I mean, who is for murdering babies? (Well, the “pro-life” movement is, but that’s another story.) That being said, I’ve asked multiple “pro-life” people how they feel about redirecting the NIH’s funding to be basically only about prevention of miscarriage, since if the single celled entity that comes into existence due to fusion of oocyte and sperm is a baby then miscarriage is the horrific plague killing 80% of the population, most within the first two weeks of life. They’re uniformly against it. Makes it hard for me to take the claim that they want to save babies seriously.

  12. 12
    Eytan Zweig says:

    The reason that the threat of filibuster is enough to block the law is twofold. The first is that cloture requires 60 votes. This replaced the earlier rule of 2/3 of the senators present. What that means is that a party wants to filibuster, they don’t all have to sit and listen. They can all go and leave 2-3 senators in place taking shifts talking, while the others have naps, meals, do whatever they feel like, and then 2-3 hours later swap out the filibustering senators. So, in essence, a talking filibuster is really easy to sustain.

    The second issue is the 2-track rule instituted in 1970. This rule means that if there’s a filibuster on a bill, the senate majority leader can suspend that discussion without officially ending the filibuster and move on to discuss a different bill. Without this rule, a filibuster would suspend all senate business, so this is essential to allow the senate majority to get some business done. However, the side effect is that the other party can essentailly maintain a virtual filibuster, stopping the law they want from going on without any effort at all.

    It’s a lose-lose situation for the Democratic party, because if they require a talking filibuster then they basically allow the Republicans to stop *everything*, and without it actually being difficult for the Republicans. Or they can use the two track method to do other things, but that’s essentially giving the Republicans a free indefinite filibuster on whatever bill it wants to block.

    To put it another way, when faced with a filibuster threat, unless they have 60 votes, the three options the senate majority has are A – allow the senate minority to entirely stop all senate activity without most of them actually needing to be present in the room, B – put the filibustered bill on hold indefinitely, or C – just not bring up the filibustered bill at all. Since A is an even worse outcome, and B and C are functually identical, they just go for C, because that way there’s at least a chance that a revised version of the bill will later get 60 votes.

  13. 13
    Joe in Australia says:

    Following up from Eytan’s comment to add: these rules are set by the Senate itself and could be modified with a bare majority of those voting. And in fact they previously have been modified when the filibuster was found to be too obstructive. At present the Democratic Party has a nominal majority and in theory could just dump the filibuster and pass any legislation and approve any nominees it pleased.

    Unfortunately the Democratic majority is merely a nominal one, and there are at least two senators who refuse to pass most legislation against Republican opposition: Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. And I say “at least” because it’s very likely that there are more Democratic senators who would also refuse to pass that legislation but who are presently shielded by those other senators’ intransigence.

  14. 14
    Dianne says:

    Joe in Australia @13: It’s my impression that when the Republicans aren’t in power nationally they use the opportunity to push even harder for voter suppression measures and other restrictions on democracy to try to keep the power that they do have. They have flat out admitted that they know they can’t win a fair election and are doing what they can to ensure only the “right” people can vote. (See Amp’s cartoon above.)

  15. 15
    RonF says:

    If Sens. Sinema and Manchin won’t vote to kill the filibuster in this situation I rather doubt they’ll do so if the GOP gains a majority. I also think there’s GOP Senators who wouldn’t vote for that because they are well aware that a Senate majority is ephemeral. Don’t forget that in 2019-2020 the GOP held a majority – and the Democrats used the filibuster quite a bit themselves, which Sinema and Manchin are well aware of, as well as other Democrat Senators.

    Schroeder4214:

    the Senate and electoral college are rigged to make large majorities easier for Republicans

    While that may be their current effect, they were not rigged to do so – the GOP didn’t even exist until 65 years after the Constitution went into effect.

    Dianne:

    It is a way to play out their desire to rape and murder and nothing else.

    This is the functional equivalent of people in the anti-abortion camp claiming that pro-abortion peoples’ motivation is that they love to kill babies. Which I have heard some claim, for sure – but I treat with the same level of creditability.

  16. 16
    RonF says:

    Jacqueline Onassis

    These are the same people who told us SCOTUS would never overturn Roe.

    Hm. Who told you that? I’m not doubting that someone did. But whoever they were it was a foolish statement. Plessy v. Ferguson was precedent and settled law that multiple States and municipalities based laws and ordinances on until it was overturned 58 years later by Brown v. Board of Education.

  17. 17
    Dianne says:

    This is the functional equivalent of people in the anti-abortion camp claiming that pro-abortion peoples’ motivation is that they love to kill babies.

    Sure it is. If you ignore what the “pro-life” movement actually says. Have you read their propaganda? Not to mention their actions: they’re happy to let a pregnant person die of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy rather than allow her to be saved by an abortion, even though they themselves acknowledge that the embryo is doomed. What can that be except a desire to murder? And they practically salivate over the thought of denying a pregnant person the right to control their uterus. Quite a number are in favor of forcing all births to be “natural” and without pain medication. What is that except rape?

  18. 18
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    Don’t forget about how they’ve bombed abortion clinics and assassinated doctors for decades to the cheers and they deserved it’s and other tacit approvals of the less personally violent anti-abortion ghouls.

  19. 19
    Dianne says:

    @Jacqueline: Exactly. Also the gawdawful torture porn they make about “abortionists” going to hell and the detailed descriptions of the tortures they suffer there.

  20. 20
    JaneDoh says:

    The crazy thing about “letting the states decide” is that some states don’t just want to control what happens within their borders. They want to control what happens to people who live in the state (which is nuts). I would hope this would be struck down as unconstitutional, since Federal law has jurisdiction over interstate commerce, but one never knows since apparently abortion is so special and different that we can ignore precedent (both the SC decisions, and the law of the land in 1789, which was abortion is legal until the quickening). This will lead to state vs state battles over the various state laws. This isn’t even conjecture – what happens when the law in Missouri (can sue anyone anywhere that helps a Missouri resident get an abortion) collides with the law in Connecticut (Connecticut residents can’t be sued for providing abortion and can countersue to get back legal costs)?

    I won’t even go to the insane legal issues that will erupt when pregnant people (or people who claim to be pregnant) start trying to get tax deductions for the unborn, since Louisiana is trying to define life as starting at fertilization (so much for IVF). Which is in principle against the establishment clause, since various religions have their own definitions of when life begins, but who knows what this court will think of on this issue.

  21. 21
    Schroeder4213 says:

    I won’t even go to the insane legal issues that will erupt when pregnant people (or people who claim to be pregnant) start trying to get tax deductions for the unborn

    Think they might call your bluff on this one. The Senate has already put forward a bill to allow taxpayers to claim fetuses as dependents. Personally, while some of the language would need to be changed (excise references to “unborn children”), I think this should be bipartisan, because it is expensive just getting ready for a baby.

  22. 22
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    … I think this should be bipartisan, because it is expensive just getting ready for a baby.

    Ha, ha, ha, hahahahaha! In the US?

  23. 23
    JaneDoh says:

    I think paid parental leave would be far more useful to parents than a tax deduction for a fetus. And how exactly would that be enforced? What would stop an unscrupulous person from claiming to be pregnant and having a miscarriage?

  24. 24
    Joe in Australia says:

    Louisiana is trying to define life as starting at fertilization (so much for IVF). Which is in principle against the establishment clause, since various religions have their own definitions of when life begins, but who knows what this court will think of on this issue.

    It is unquestionably Orthodox and, I believe, Conservative Jewish law that a Jewish doctor is required to perform an abortion when the pregnancy constitutes a danger to the mother’s life. There’a decent write up of it here: What does Jewish law say about abortion?

    I can already tell you what the courts will think of on this issue: they will pretend, just as they do when it comes to other areas of unquestioned Christian supremacy, that abortion laws are a civil and not a religious matter.

  25. 25
    Dianne says:

    Louisiana is trying to define life as starting at fertilization (so much for IVF).

    Also so much for IUDs, which usually work by preventing fertilization, but also make implantation harder. IUDs are one of the most popular and a highly effective form of contraception. They are not being banned by accident.

  26. 26
    Görkem says:

    “I can already tell you what the courts will think of on this issue: they will pretend, just as they do when it comes to other areas of unquestioned Christian supremacy, that abortion laws are a civil and not a religious matter.”

    Unquestioned Catholic-Protestant superiority (since Orthodox are also Christians).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *