The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Here's the full context, from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre yesterday:
Q But specifically with regards to limiting these freedoms — I guess my question is: The Supreme Court created this space for the anti-abortion movement at the state level and also perhaps at the federal level to try and restrict this freedom. Where do they fit into all of this? How would the President describe them after that decision? Were they just extremists, or were they, you know, part and parcel of a semi-fascist —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, here's what I'll say: We continue to — continue to see attacks on people's fundamental rights — right? — of Americans with new abortion laws across the country.
And when you have national Republicans who are — who are leaders in their — in their political party; who sit in office; who say that they want to take away the rights even in case of incest, in case — and not — and in case of rape; and taking away a woman's right to make a decision on her body — that's extreme.
And — and, you know, the President is going to call that out. He's going to continue to do everything that he can to make sure that we protect people's freedoms. He's going to do everything that he can to call that out. And, you know, that is important to call out. That is important to talk about.
And, again, we see a majority of Americans who disagree. And so, when you are not with where a majority of Americans are, then, you know, that is extreme. That is an extreme way of thinking.
I'm not going to — that's what I have for you, Phil.
I should note that forbidding abortion even in cases of rape or incest is indeed the view of only a minority, though the results vary from 35% (the "oppose" in "Please tell me if you support or oppose a law that allows abortion at any time during pregnancy in cases of rape or incest") to 14%-16% ("illegal" in "Do you think abortions should be legal or illegal when the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest?," "illegal" in "How about when the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest? Do you think abortion should be legal in that situation or illegal?"). And "taking away a woman's right to make a decision on her body" more generally, which I think roughly fits the "abortion should be illegal most of the time" or "always illegal" seems to poll at about 32% to 46%, depending on how the question is worded.
Likewise, allowing abortion on demand generally, including in the third trimester, is supported only by 20% of the public (up from 13% four years ago), and allowing it in the second trimester (basically the Roe v. Wade rule) is supported only by 36% of the public (up from 28% four years ago). Saying that some versions of those views are extreme, whether because they really do have the support of only a small fringe, or because they are logically at the ends of the spectrum (e.g., "always illegal" or "always legal") may be descriptively defensible, though I'm not sure that this is what the President's representative should be saying.
But the particular thing she said was:
We see a majority of Americans who disagree. And so, when you are not with where a majority of Americans are, then, you know, that is extreme.
And that strikes me as hard to defend.