Expert on SCOTUS abortion ruling: ‘Not sure yet how great the political impact will be’ in November

USA TODAY Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page discusses the protests resulting from the Supreme Court's decision on Roe v. Wade, its economic and political impacts, and how companies are responding.

Video transcript

DAVE BRIGGS: Joining us live from Washington now is "USA Today" Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page. Susan, it's great to have you here on a day like this. Let's just take a step back to the 30,000-foot view and your reaction to this monumental ruling.

SUSAN PAGE: Well, we saw the enormous reaction from both sides in the wake of the ruling. And we hear from Democratic leaders-- President Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer-- saying now women's rights are on the ballot. And they're citing this as a reason for women and others to go out and vote in this midterm election.

But I have to tell you, Dave, that in a poll that "USA Today" put out this week, we found that Americans who support abortion rights still care more about the economy. So it's not at all clear that this is going to transform that midterm election.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: So, then, to that point, then, in terms of the political reaction that people are having, are you saying it's primarily muted at this point?

SUSAN PAGE: Well, not muted today. You just have to be here in town to see the big protests outside the court and elsewhere. The question is, when it comes to November when people are voting, will they still be fired up about abortion rights-- maybe so, as we see 13 states immediately start to restrict abortions. Or will they be worried about kitchen table issues like inflation, or baby food shortages, the price of gas, the idea that we may be facing a recession? And I'm just-- I just think we're not sure yet how great the political impact will be in November.

DAVE BRIGGS: Susan, it was interesting-- in the immediate aftermath, I talked to a handful of Republican-- lifetime Republican women who said they initially immediately changed their party registration and said they are never going back. Some interesting USA Today Suffolk polling-- 7 out of 10 say the high court's action would have no effect on whether they choose to cast a ballot. Do you think that could change as this issue gets thrust more into the public conversation?

SUSAN PAGE: It could. We're a couple months away from the election. We'll see what the reaction is. We'll see the reaction to the specific wording, including Justice Thomas' really amazing comment in his opinion that other rights should now be reconsidered. That maybe got everybody's attention.

But historically, the abortion issue, since Roe v Wade was decided, has energized those who oppose abortion rights, not those who support it. Here's a question-- does the fact that Roe v Wade protection has now been overturned, does that flip that on its head? Does that mean the energy will be behind those who support abortion rights? We're going to have to wait and find out.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: So, then, as you look at some of the states that already have the trigger law in effect, then, what are we expecting to see there in terms of how soon this is going to happen, what people should expect in the individual states that do have this?

SUSAN PAGE: Well, in some states, it's going to be instantaneous. Abortions are immediately going to be much more difficult to obtain in those 13 states. We have another group of states, maybe a dozen states, that are likely to act in the near future-- really by election day. So the impact of this is not going to be something we're looking at down the road, it's going to be something that Americans are going to be feeling right away.

DAVE BRIGGS: It was interesting, some "New York Times" reporting, Susan, not sure if you've seen, that, privately, President Trump had told associates that he thought this, if it happened, would be bad for Republicans. I can't help but think of a governor who is also a presidential candidate in all likelihood, Ron DeSantis, what this will do to Republican governors across the country who have now punished private businesses for expressing their opinions-- we most notably think of DeSantis versus Disney. Are we going to see that play out across the country now?

SUSAN PAGE: In this poll that we just took, we found something interesting. Most Americans want employers to provide support for employees who need to go travel to get a legal abortion. But 2/3 of Americans told us they did not want corporations to speak out and take a stand on this issue. Support your employees, yes, make it principled-- what you see as a principled stand, a declaration of what you think about this, 2/3 of Americans said that was not what they were looking for from companies.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: That's a really interesting dichotomy, then. It seems like they want people to be able to access it, but they don't specifically want companies to speak out. As we look at some of the things like labor force participation that are impacted by whether or not you have children, whether or not you can afford an abortion-- what do you think is important in terms of the economy, what we should be keeping an eye on here?

SUSAN PAGE: Well, you know, Rachelle, something very interesting in our survey was we asked people, if a state banned abortion, would that affect whether you think that was a good place to live? And a third of Americans said, it is a less desirable state for me if a state bans abortion.

And you think about places like Austin, Texas or Atlanta, Georgia, where the state is likely to take action against abortion. But these are cities that have been trying to attract young people and highly educated people to live there. Maybe it will affect their ability to do that.

42% of people 25 and younger said it would make a state less desirable for me. 45% of people with a post-graduate degree said it would make a state less desirable for them to settle in. That could be a problem for these cities that have been trying to build young, highly educated workforces.

DAVE BRIGGS: Yeah. If you live in Austin, you now have to drive or will have to drive to Colorado to have access to an abortion, which, needless to say, is not doable for low income, and particular highly minority, women across the country who this hits the most. And I think the ground zero for this will be Florida, because women travel to Florida from the entire region at this point to get abortions. And it looks as though Florida will certainly go one way.

I want to ask you about Supreme Court confirmation hearings, which are under the spotlight now because Susan Collins, of course. And she said this decision is inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony. Does it just remind us that those are a farce, at best?

SUSAN PAGE: Yeah. Well, I think she is getting-- Senator Collins is getting a lot of criticism today, even being mocked because, of course, supporters of abortion rights had argued at the time of the hearings that what they're saying at the hearing is not what they will do once they are on the bench. And that has proved to be correct.

I think she was a key vote in the transformation of this court to one that has three Trump employees-- three Trump appointees and two other conservative justices who sided with them on this-- and then, of course, the Chief Justice.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: And we do know that during those SCOTUS nominations, a lot of people were wondering, look, is it a case of perhaps adding more justices? Didn't seem to see a whole lot of appetite for that. Do you think when you have a decision this big at the forefront now, could that now be an option?

SUSAN PAGE: I guess I'm skeptical about big changes like that-- increasing the size of the court. Another idea, imposing limits-- so there's a point where a justice would have to retire. I find it hard to believe that in this polarized political climate, where it almost-- very little gets done-- although we did have a big gun law passed today and about to be signed into law-- I'm skeptical that we would be able to manage something like this.

And one point-- these justices on this side of the decision who supported the overturning of Roe v Wade, they are on the young side. They expect to be on this court for decades more.

DAVE BRIGGS: Yeah. Trump got three appointees in their 50s, remade the court for the next several generations. I want to follow up on that gun legislation in just a second. But first, let's push forward to the next presidential election-- Mike Pence, who we expect to be a candidate, is calling for a national abortion ban.

It's never proven to be a presidential issue, the Supreme Court, issues like abortion. Will it? And do you think we'll hear more about court-packing in the short-term?

SUSAN PAGE: I think that the issue of abortion rights in the high court was crucial to President Trump's support among evangelical Christians. I think that was the reason they were willing to kind of make a deal to support him when his own lifestyle wasn't one that fit their idea of what presidents should do. And now, as former President Trump said today, he delivered on what he promised.

He promised during his campaign to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v Wade. And today, that is just what happened.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: And then following up on Dave's question about what we've seen with the Supreme Court's recent decision on gun laws-- what are you keeping an eye on there? And what are some of the other issues on the docket that people should be paying attention to?

SUSAN PAGE: Extraordinary, isn't it, that we have seen these two big decisions affecting some fundamental aspects of Americans' lives in the space of a week. It underscores the power of the court on some of these issues. We may see some voting rights issues coming up.

We may see issues in terms of the oversight of elections-- what some people call the future of democracy. So the court is-- really, we have three branches of government. The court has shown this week what a powerful branch of government they are.

DAVE BRIGGS: Susan Page, great to have you here on a day like this-- guns, abortion, inflation-- going to be an interesting midterm election, to say the least. Thank you.

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