West Virginia is hardly the first state to pass a 20-week abortion ban through its legislature — 10 other states have similar laws on the books. But it's making news for something unusual about the people who approved it: the state's legislature is controlled by Democrats. For some, say the National Review, this fact proves that supporting bans on late-term abortions has become more politically acceptable for Democrats, even as the party seeks to claim the high ground on women's rights. For others, the bill represents an increasing threat to reproductive rights and women's health. In the broadest terms, both arguments are correct. But the details make things just a bit more complicated — just because a strategy to advance anti-abortion legislation is working doesn't mean that the legislation itself is moderate.
The conservative argument here, that these 20-week bans are becoming more politically appealing for moderate legislators (even Democrats)tends to claim that those who don't support these bans are now the "extremists" of the abortion debate. This is, in part, because of public opinion polls showing that majorities of Americans do favor restrictions on abortions past 20 weeks. Plus, the bans only pertain to a small number of abortions across the country — under 2 percent occur past 20 weeks. And there's also the test of time: after Wendy Davis filibustered a Texas omnibus anti-abortion law last summer, the state later passed and enacted a whole new set of restrictions on abortions, including a 20-week ban. And while some portions of that law face court challenges, the 20-week cutoff date itself has remained relatively safe. Davis even later stated that she'd support some version of a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.