Anti-abortion Rep. Chris Smith optimistic over pending Supreme Court case

by Kate Scanlon, Reporter

January 21, 2022

Rep. Chris Smith is a veteran of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. But the New Jersey Republican has a particular reason for optimism this year on the issue with which the New Jersey Republican is most closely identified.

Friday’s event comes a month and a half after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center. The case concerning a Mississippi law that bans elective abortion procedures after 15 weeks is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that effectively established national abortion rights.

Some legal scholars and activists on both sides say the case may prompt the court to revise or overturn that landmark decision.

“I’m extremely hopeful that the court will do the right thing,” Rep. Chris Smith, co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus, told the Washington Examiner in an interview.

The court’s decision, whatever it may be, is expected this summer, just months before November’s midterm elections — making it likely abortion will become a campaign topic.

Asked about the decision could affect the midterm elections, Smith said, “We need a national debate on abortion.”

“I think the Dobbs case will begin waking people up. You know, laws are a great teacher,” said Smith, a House member since 1981. “We’ve never had a true national debate on abortion in the United States. We’ve had fights on the Hyde Amendment, this amendment, that amendment,” he added, citing the annual provision in spending bills banning federal funding for abortions.

Smith argued that voters broadly support individual limitations on abortion, such as not using taxpayer funds to pay for procedures or limiting abortion after a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis.

Smith will speak at Friday’s rally and plans to tell attendees their cause is at “a tipping point” as it enters “a critically important new phase,” according to a draft of his speech reviewed by the Washington Examiner.

If the court overturned its abortion precedent, it wouldn’t become illegal everywhere but would revert to existing state laws. Some states would move to restrict the procedure, while others would move to protect access. Smith argued that patchwork should warrant a federal response.

“My sense is that we’ll see more bills pass, maybe even here, but not given this leadership,” Smith said of anti-abortion legislation.

Should the Mississippi law stand, Smith said Republicans may reconsider their Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, legislation they have spent years trying to pass that would prohibit elective abortion after 20 weeks.

“We are going to reintroduce the bill to lower it to 15 weeks gestational age,” Smith said.

Smith said he’s proud to participate in the March for Life, calling the anti-abortion cause a human rights issue.

“If I work on world hunger, and I do private sponsored global food security, I get nothing but accolades,” he said. “You know, you work on some of these other issues, you get a pat on the back. You work to save a little baby from extermination, and you are marginalized and attacked very, very aggressively.”

Anti-abortion Rep. Chris Smith optimistic over pending Supreme Court case | Washington Examiner