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How G.O.P. Support for Decriminalizing Abortion Faded Over Decades

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Greenhouse and Siegel tell the story of how G.O.P. strategists in the early 1970s decided that the party could attract new Republican voters by making a play to Catholics and evangelicals centered on abortion.

It took about 10 years for this new political coalition to coalesce along with the rise of Ronald Reagan, they write — powered by the emerging alliance between evangelical Christians and Catholics.

In one especially revealing passage, they point out how George Gallup, the pioneering pollster, noted in a column published in The Washington Post on Aug. 25, 1972 — nearly five months before the court published its ruling in the Roe case — that 64 percent of Americans, and 56 percent of Catholics, agreed with the statement “the decision to have an abortion should be made solely by a woman and her physician.”

At 68 percent, a greater proportion of Republicans agreed with that statement than did Democrats, at 59 percent, Gallup added.

Today, those figures look very different. According to Gallup Organization polling released early this month: 58 percent of Republicans supported overturning Roe, a record high, versus 15 percent of Democrats.

Greenhouse stumbled across a clipping of George Gallup’s column among Justice Harry Blackmun’s court papers while working on a series for The Times, which later became the basis for a biography she wrote on the liberal judge’s life and influence on the bench.

Blackmun, of course, was the primary author of the Roe decision, the fall of which on Friday set off political shock waves.

Greenhouse said she didn’t know why Blackmun’s papers contained the poll.

“But what I assume it underscored for him at that time,” she said, “was that abortion was not a supercharged issue.”

“Every Republican president since Reagan has run on a platform of choosing those judges and justices who would vote to overturn Roe,” Greenhouse said.


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  • The New York Times published a fire hose of stories, blog items and analysis about the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade on Friday. My recommendation: Start here and scroll down.

  • “The ruling will test the legitimacy of the court and vindicate a decades-long Republican project of installing conservative justices prepared to reject the precedent, which had been repeatedly reaffirmed by earlier courts,” writes Adam Liptak, the current Supreme Court correspondent for The Times. “It will also be one of the signal legacies of President Donald J. Trump, who vowed to name justices who would overrule Roe. All three of his appointees were in the majority.”

  • What’s next: Sheryl Gay Stolberg examines the concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, who she says “laid out a vision that prompted concerns about what other rights could disappear.” Thomas argued that the same rationale used by the court to upend Roe “should also be used to overturn cases establishing rights to contraception, same-sex consensual relations and same-sex marriage,” Stolberg reported.

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Credit…Shuran Huang for The New York Times

On Politics regularly features work by Times photographers. Here’s what Shuran Huang told us about capturing the image above:

Abortion rights and anti-abortion protesters arrived this morning to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade.

As the crowd grew bigger, both groups started to challenge each other. “My body, my choice,” the woman on the right yelled at the anti-abortion demonstrators.

About 15 minutes later, the decision came out.

Thanks for reading. We’ll see you on Monday.

— Blake

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