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Week In Politics: Restrictive Abortion Law Goes In Effect In Texas

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It just seems - I know this sounds ridiculous - almost un-American.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Biden yesterday when asked about a new Texas law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who assists a pregnant person who's seeking an abortion. The Supreme Court refused to block the law this week, and it effectively bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Pro-life conservatives have worked for decades to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court. What does this Supreme Court's decision now tell us about that effort?

ELVING: It tells us that those activists have largely succeeded, and Roe is hanging by a thread. The long march that began in reaction to that decision in 1973 has climbed its mountain. It has largely remade the federal judiciary. We knew five years ago there were two members of the Supreme Court who felt no need to respect the Roe precedent. And no surprise, we now have three more thanks to former President Trump. That's your 5-4 decision we saw this week. So there will be more cases now that the Texas law is in effect. There's one judge in Texas who's already issued an order suspending the most egregious enforcement mechanism in the law, the sue-your-neighbor provision. But the overall attitude of the current Supremes, who are going to have to hear about this again, is quite clear.

SIMON: How does this shift fit into - or not - into today's America, in which abortion has largely been legal for several generations now?

ELVING: On a national scale, it's at odds with the clear majority. The clear majority supports abortion or abortion with some restrictions. But it does fit the mood in some states. Now, the Texas Alliance for Life organization that's calling the tune now in the nation's second most populous state, this group says it wants to end abortion even before six weeks, right up to the point of conception. So we are at a crossroads. Support for abortion may grow with generational change - a lot of indication of that. But right now, the most dedicated anti-abortion advocates have the upper hand in much of the country based on their electoral success.

SIMON: And opponents of abortion have been expanding the Republican base, the base for Republican candidates, really, over the last 50 years. Do you see that continuing?

ELVING: That is the question. You know, Roe has been a great driver of change for the Republican Party, brought many people in who were former Democrats. Will it be harder to generate that same energy if it's gone? And will there be a corresponding increase among supporters of abortion rights, a supporting increase for the right?

SIMON: Yeah.

ELVING: That could have enormous implications at all levels of our politics if it happens.

SIMON: U.S. military, of course, has officially left Afghanistan this week. President Biden continued to say he did the right thing, tough as it was. Time to look to the future, not the past. Can we tell how Americans are now viewing the war in Afghanistan - but more to the point, the president's handling of the withdrawal?

ELVING: Two different questions. There's a new poll out this morning from Pew Research showing a little over half the country supports withdrawal still, even in the face of everything we've seen the last couple three weeks. But people of all political stripes are upset about how we left. These are the bad things that happen when you leave an embattled country after 20 years, a country so terribly needy in the face of all of our cultural wealth and freedom. But did we really believe we could ever leave such a country in such straits with just a wave and an air kiss? That was never going to be possible.

SIMON: And new poll numbers show the president's job approval rating is way down.

ELVING: Down 14 points from its peak in April. That might've been something of a sugar rush when we thought we were past COVID. It's also down 6 points from July, most clearly because of Afghanistan, the pullout, the terrible scenes that we saw from the handling of that. Lots of presidents have come back from this level and much lower. Donald Trump averaged 41% for his whole first four years in office. So he still came back to almost get reelected. So things will happen. What's going to matter is what happens next. Afghanistan - if it's a bloodbath, as some expect, or if the long history of Afghanistan's formless governing structure persists, we shall see.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.