Fox News is downplaying the effects of overturning Roe v. Wade

Following the news that the Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade, Fox personalities and guests said such a decision would just mean abortion will be regulated at the state level, that it’s “unfair” to say it will be banned, and that people seeking the procedure can just “go live somewhere else” where it’s legal. 

On May 2, Politico published a leak of a draft majority opinion overturning Roe, written by Justice Samuel Alito, as part of a decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that challenges Mississippi’s abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

In the opinion, drafted in February, Alito defended overturning the landmark decision, writing, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.” The opinion later stated, “The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.” The day after the draft decision leaked, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed its authenticity but said it does not represent the court’s final decision. 

In response to the story, conservative media figures minimized how Americans would be affected if individual states get the right to regulate abortion. 

Republicans at the state level have been chipping away at abortion access for years. At least 13 states will quickly ban all or nearly all abortions following the Dobbs decision due to trigger laws on the books. Another nine states have legislation that would, should Roe be overturned, enact varying degrees of bans after six weeks of pregnancy -- well before many people would even know they’re pregnant. In total, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortions if Roe is overturned, and low-income communities of color will bear the brunt of it. More than half of the country’s Black population lives in southern states where abortion is most likely to be restricted, and low-income people probably will be not able to afford to travel hundreds of miles outside of these abortion deserts to receive the procedure.    

Additionally, anti-abortion activists are already preparing for their next move: a nationwide ban if Republicans gain control of Congress. 

But rather than discuss how Americans will be impacted if Roe is overturned, right-wing media figures focused on the fact that the issue will go back to the states for regulation and even went as far as to suggest that people seeking the procedure could just take a bus from red state where abortion may be banned to a blue state where it won’t: 

  • During the May 4 edition of Outnumbered, co-host Kayleigh McEnany said there should be no problem allowing the states to regulate abortion if the procedure is popular with the majority of people, saying: “Give the decision to the people. What are you scared of?” Fox Business’ Jackie DeAngelis added that this decision will not “undo abortion in this country. States may put some more restrictions on it, but people have the right to leave. They can go live somewhere else where it’s more of a free-for-all, and they can do whatever they want.” 
  • On the May 3 edition of Outnumbered, National Review editor Andrew McCarthy downplayed the significance of Roe being overturned, saying, “If the court threw out Roe, what we are going to find is when everybody woke up the next day, the sky will not have fallen. … It will be like it was before Roe, which is, you know, about 30 states had real prohibitions against abortion [and] 20 states regulated it somewhat more loosely.”
  • Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) told Fox anchor Sandra Smith, “The court is saying this should happen in states and federal legislatures, that it should be decided by the people through their elected officials, not through unelected judges. Unelected judges say what the law is. Elected officials actually create law.”
  • On America’s Newsroom, former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway dismissed concerns about access to abortion, saying, “If Roe v. Wade is overturned, that does not do away with abortion in this country. People are lying about that. It kicks it back to the states where most health decisions are governed at the state level.”
  • McCarthy also appeared on America’s Newsroom and implied that Roe took “decision making away from democracy.” He went on to claim, “The court's role in a democracy is to be modest and to jump in only when the Constitution absolutely requires it, and otherwise, they are supposed to let us govern ourselves, which is what happened with abortion up until 1973.”
  • Law professor Jonathan Turley suggested that the potential ruling wouldn’t affect most Americans’ right to an abortion, saying, “​​This opinion, even if it were finalized and remained largely unchanged, would not make abortion unlawful in the United States. It would return the issue to the states. The majority of states where the vast majority of the population lives clearly have indicated that abortion will remain protected in those states.”
  • On Fox & Friends, Fox host Mark Levin ludicrously claimed that after Roe is overturned, “if somebody says I want an abortion in the 18th week and I’m in Mississippi, they’ll say OK, let’s get on the bus. We’ll go over to New Jersey or wherever it is.”
  • On Hannity, Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee said the claim that overturning Roe v. Wade would end abortion was “the big lie. Some states will have more abortions. Some states, like my home state, won't have any. That's what it will do, and it's unfair to say it ends abortion."
  • Fox host Sean Hannity asked Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarett about how this potential decision would impact Americans, saying, “What would be the ramifications for people, because I know it will be demagogued and meanwhile it only would mean that the states would decide, not the federal government.” 

Make no mistake, overturning Roe v. Wade repeals almost 50 years of precedent and is one of the biggest rights reversals the country has ever seen. This decision and how it will affect Americans deserve more scrutiny than shallow commentary about the issue reverting to the states.