Rights Groups, Dems Don’t Buy Johnson’s Claim He Won’t Push Federal Abortion Ban

"Mike Johnson's flip-flopping on abortion just proves our movement is winning and that Republicans know they're losing," one advocate said.

By Olivia Rosane | 30 April 2024
Common Dreams

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said that he would not attempt to ban abortion on the federal level, a claim that earned instant skepticism from reproductive rights groups.

Johnson’s remarks came as part of an interview published by Politico on Friday, as Johnson responded to questions from Politico’s Ryan Lizza and Rachael Bade:

Lizza: Some like lightning round questions: Do you anticipate putting forward any legislation on abortion before the election?


Bade: If there is Republican control of both chambers of Congress and the White House next year, do you anticipate passing any sort of nationwide abortion ban?

No, I don’t.

President Trump said this is in the states’ purview now. After the Dobbs decision, I think that’s where it is. Look, I am a lifelong pro-lifer. I’m a product of a teen pregnancy. And so I believe in the sanctity of human life. It’s also an important article of faith for me. But I have 434 colleagues here. All of us have our own, philosophical principles that we live by, but you have to have a political consensus.

In response to Johnson’s answer, Reproductive Freedom for All President and CEO Mini Timmaraju said it reflected a growing awareness among Republicans that restricting abortion is not politically popular. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, every electoral attempt to protect abortion rights on the state level has succeeded.

“Mike Johnson’s flip-flopping on abortion just proves our movement is winning and that Republicans know they’re losing,” Timmaraju said.

However, she pointed out that “‘leaving abortion to the states’ is not a moderate position, as 21 states are already enforcing horrifying bans with devastating consequences.”

Further, she warned against taking Johnson at his word.

“Voters have made it clear to the GOP that we will not tolerate abortion bans,” she continued. “Mike Johnson and congressional Republicans have shown time and time again they are willing to do anything in their power to restrict our reproductive freedom, and we can’t trust them.”

Other abortion rights and pro-democracy campaigners issued similar warnings.

“The technical political science term for this is ‘lying,'” Indivisible co-founder Ezra Levin wrote on social media in response to the interview.

Activist Olivia Julianna pointed out that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had called Roe v. Wade “settled precedent” before helping to overturn it in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Elected Democrats also expressed suspicion.

Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) pointed out that Johnosn was one of 127 Republicans who had co-sponsored a bill to ban abortion at the federal level.

“If he really isn’t for a national abortion ban, he should withdrawal his co-sponsorship first thing when we are back next week,” Frost wrote on social media.

Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) wrote that “these people have been working to ban abortion and deny women the freedom to control our own bodies their entire careers.”

“Don’t be conned. They can’t be trusted with our rights,” she said.

In a second post, she asked incredulously, “I’m really supposed to believe Mike Johnson, the lifelong anti-abortion zealot, is suddenly just going to leave it alone?”

Even if the Republicans did steer clear of a federal ban, it would not be enough to ensure abortion rights in the U.S.

“We demand a federal response to the abortion crisis and call on the press to ask the speaker if he will support federal protections,” Timmaraju said. “We demand nothing less from our federal government than locking in the federal right to abortion and expanding access.”

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