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New House speaker pushed for ‘hard labor’ for abortion providers after fall of Roe

The day after the US supreme court overturned Roe v Wade in June last year, Mike Johnson of Louisiana celebrated his home state’s new penalties for abortion providers. “The right to life has now been RESTORED!” the Republican crowed on X, formerly known as Twitter, on 25 June. “Perform an abortion and get imprisoned at hard labor for 1-10 yrs & fined $10K-$100K.”

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Opposition to abortion is virtually a jobrequirement for Republicans these days. But Johnson, the newly minted speaker of the House, is a committed abortion opponent even by the standards of his fellowconservative colleagues.

Johnson ascended to the speakership after the sudden ouster of Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, and weeks of tumult in the House. A member of the House since 2016, Johnson is a loyalsupporter of Donald Trump – to the point that he served on Trump’s legal defense team during Trump’s first impeachment – and a social conservative fueled by his evangelical Christian faith.

And, at a time when many Republicans in Congress are trying to quietly ignore abortion, wary of the backlash from their constituents over proliferating abortion bans, Johnson has continued to champion an array of anti-abortion bills.

Since Roe v Wade’s demise, Johnson has co-sponsored a national 15-week abortion ban as well as a ban on the most common second-trimester abortion method.

He also co-sponsored bills to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding, to force providers to tell women that they may be able to “reverse” their abortions – a claim unproven by science – and to make it a federal crime to transport a minor across state lines for a legal abortion without telling that minor’s parents.

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Johnson backed a bill that would have established that life begins at conception and redefined fetuses as human beings. So-called “personhood” bills could upend vast swaths of US law. For example, Georgia’s six-week abortion ban, which includes personhood language, lets people claim fetuses as tax dependents.

In 2021, Johnson even co-sponsored a bill that would have nationally banned abortions past roughly six weeks of pregnancy. The bill would have allowed abortions in cases where a woman’s life is endangered due to a physical condition, but not due to a psychological one.

Before arriving at the House, Johnson worked as an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a powerhouse of a Christian law firm and the organization behind much of the modern anti-abortion movement’s legal strategy. The group drafted model legislation that led to a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi, which, ultimately, was at the heart of the case used to overturn Roe.

Democrats are circulating footage of Johnson on social media, where Johnson can be seen speaking at a House hearing linking the availability of abortion to the health of the economy.

“Roe v Wade gave constitutional cover to the elective killing of unborn children in America, period,” Johnson said in the clip. “You think about the implications of that on the economy. We’re all struggling here to cover the bases of social security and Medicare and Medicaid and all the rest. If we had all those able-bodied workers in the economy, we wouldn’t be going upside down and toppling over like this.”

Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America, a powerful anti-abortion organization, has given Johnson an “A+” for his record in Congress.

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On Wednesday, the group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, quickly congratulated Johnson.

“We are thrilled by the election of Speaker Johnson and look forward to working closely with him to advance national protections for unborn babies, serve mothers, and grow the pro-life House majority in 2024,” she said in a statement.

“He has boldly championed life as an activist, litigator, state legislator, and as a member of Congress. These strong credentials will help him lead the pro-life movement in this exciting and challenging new era as speaker of the House.”