Since the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade, poll after poll has shown that the vast majority of American voters oppose their states banning abortion. Something like a quarter of Americans want to see abortion banned; that's it. But they are determined to force their vision on the whole country. Even in red states, considerably less than half want to dispense with women’s Choice. Predictably, the only demographic group enthusiastic about banning abortion: Republicans— and even around a third of Republicans oppose banning it!
As an issue in the midterms, abortion helped Democrats and hurt Republicans. Although Choice failed to save fatally flawed incumbents Tom O’Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ), Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY), Cindy Axne (New Dem-IA), Tom Malinowski (New Dem-NJ) and Elaine Luria (New Dem-VA), dozens of Democrats owe their victories, in great part, to the abortion issue, including freshmen Gabe Vasquez (NM), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA), Eric Sorenson (IL), Emilia Sykes (OH), Hillary Scholten (MI), Andrea Salinas (OR), Nikki Budzinski (IL), Mary Peltola (AK), Yadira Caraveo (CO), Chis Deluzio (PA), Wiley Nickel (NC), Seth Magaziner (RI) and Greg Landsman (OH).
And in terms of state legislatures, where the decisions regarding the future of Choice will be made, the GOP fared even worse, despite dumping tens of millions of dollars into the races. To begin with, it was the first midterm election in almost a century in which the opposition party did not flip a single state legislative chamber! Not just that, but the Democrats managed to flip the Minnesota Senate, the Pennsylvania House, the Michigan House and Senate— and establish a coalition to run the Alaska Senate with mainstream anti-fascist Republicans! Already dominant Democrats won 2 GOP Assembly seats and a Senate seat in California; 5 House seats and 2 Senate seats in Colorado; a House seat and a Senate seat in Connecticut; a Senate seat in Delaware; 5 House seats in Illinois; 3 House seats and 2 Senate seats in Maryland; 4 House seats in Massachusetts; 2 Assembly seats and a Senate seat in Nevada; 12 House seats in Vermont; and a House seat and a Senate seat in Washington.
Democrats also netted 2 House seats and a Senate seat in Georgia, a House seat in Indiana, a House seat in Kansas, 4 Senate seats and 3 House seats in Michigan, 3 Senate seats and a House seat in Minnesota, 3 House seats in Missouri, 17 House seats in New Hampshire, a House seat in Oklahoma, 12 House seats in Pennsylvania, and even a Senate seat in South Dakota.
Democrats lost state legislative seats in deeply red, anti-Choice areas in Arkansas, Florida, hopeless Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Early this morning, Rachel Roubein, wrote about how anti-Choice extremists are demanding Republican candidates tie their issue around their necks and jump into a raging river. She pointed out how the fanatics at “Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, is likely to ask candidates to sign a pledge supporting a federal minimum limit on abortion at no later than 15 weeks of pregnancy. ‘If any GOP primary candidate fails to summon the moral courage to endorse a 15-week gestational minimum standard, then they don’t deserve to be the president of the United States,’ said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of SBA Pro-Life America, who was instrumental in extracting antiabortion promises from former president Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign.”
That will work just fine in backward theocracies like Alabama and Wyoming, but it will horrify swing voters who will decide outcomes in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia… And voters seem aware that “If Republicans win enough House and Senate seats in a future election, they could feasibly pass some kind of federal abortion limit.”
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, is exploring holding candidate forums or debates, where the issue of abortion would be front and center. And Students for Life Action is developing a survey asking candidates whether they’ll promise to appoint cabinet members who oppose abortion, such as in the justice and health departments; if they’d sign legislation to restrict abortions early in pregnancy; their stances on abortion pills and more.
“Our biggest challenge right now is making sure we get everyone on the record and for them to understand that we expect substantial action to be taken,” said Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life Action. She added: “We want to make sure that every candidate knows that they’re going to have to be ready to make their case for life.”
…Exactly where to land on the issue may not be easy for all GOP presidential hopefuls. Former president Donald Trump jumped into the race first, and though he put a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, he frustrated antiabortion groups for comments blaming GOP losses last November on “the abortion issue,” particularly candidates who opposed exceptions for rape and incest. Trump cheered the Supreme Court decision last summer but didn’t respond to questions about where he stands on national restrictions on abortion.
Abortion rights groups scored major victories during last year’s midterm elections, even in some conservative-leaning states, and are aiming to build on that momentum. Democrats contend the results show the public is on their side, and nearly two-thirds of adults say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan group that surveyed Americans’ attitudes toward abortion last year.
Antiabortion leaders blame the midterm results on some Republican candidates who failed to paint Democrats as extreme or who shied away from talking about abortion— and now they’re warning upcoming GOP presidential contenders to take firm stances on the issue. They were particularly critical of Mehmet Oz, a Republican who lost his Senate race in Pennsylvania and said “there should not be involvement from the federal government in how states decide their abortion decisions,” instead citing local politicians.
…In addition to likely asking candidates to sign a pledge, Dannenfelser said her group is aiming to be involved in candidate forums in Iowa and South Carolina, at a minimum. The group has long assessed candidates’ records and public statements on abortion and spent millions in each election cycle, though it usually doesn’t make endorsements in the primary, with the exception of Rick Santorum in 2012. Armed with a budget that’s expected to be “significantly more” than last election cycle’s $78 million, the group is planning its ground game in presidential and Senate battleground states, which includes the traditional door knocking, digital ads and mailers.
Both the Heritage Foundation and its political arm, Heritage Action, want to hear presidential candidates come out in support of what abortion opponents call “heartbeat legislation” or a ban on abortion even earlier in pregnancy. Roger Severino, a vice president at the Heritage Foundation, said the group will be pushing candidates to be clear about their positions and is working to try to host candidate debates or forums as a venue for them to do so.
“We see the dynamics on the Republican side to be a race for who will be the most articulate spokesperson for life and will actually provide the policy proposals to save the most unborn lives as possible,” said Severino, who led the federal health department’s civil rights office during the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, Students for Life Action is hammering out a survey to send to candidates once more have announced their presidential ambitions. Its questions will likely include whether the candidate would be willing to sign into law specific bills banning abortion early in pregnancy, how they’d crack down on abortion pills and whether they would defund Planned Parenthood. The group also may ask about protections for health care workers and pharmacists who raise conscience objections to abortion, as well as questions about judicial and cabinet appointments.
State-level groups could also turn up the pressure. The Family Foundation of Virginia typically doesn’t host presidential forums, since it’s one of the later primary states, but it is discussing doing so this year, said president Victoria Cobb. She added that she’s “not convinced that there’s only one path that pro-lifers will accept," but that candidates have to “be willing to push the issue forward.” Texas Values Action typically puts out a candidate questionnaire, and in last year’s midterm elections, the survey included multiple abortion-related asks.
“Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that abortion is not a constitutional right, there will be a lot of focus on how a candidate has handled the pro-life issue in his or her state or if they’ve been in some other elected position at any other level,” said Jonathan Saenz, the president of Texas Values Action, whose group typically endorses candidates in the primary and likely will again in the 2024 presidential election cycle. “Their record will be looked at very closely.”
Most of these groups are still firming up their plans since it’s early in the election cycle, but the emerging pressure campaign underscores that abortion will be a top-tier issue in the GOP primary. The Republican National Committee wants to see candidates seize the post-Roe moment, passing a resolution in January formally urging GOP lawmakers to “go on offense in the 2024 election cycle.” Democratic pollsters say their party has a few messages: to paint this position as extreme and argue the government should be kept out of Americans’ private medical decisions.
Only two other candidates besides Trump have announced they’re running for president in what’s expected to be a crowded Republican field.
Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley announced her candidacy last month. As South Carolina’s governor, she signed a law in 2016 prohibiting the procedure at 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother’s life is at risk or if a doctor determines the fetus cannot survive outside of the womb. In a recent Today Show interview, she didn’t say whether she’d support a limit at 15 weeks, saying there should be “consensus” found on abortion while indicating she didn’t support a “full-out federal ban because I don’t think that’s been put on the table.” The campaign didn’t respond to specific questions about whether Haley supports certain national limits.
…Since the summer, antiabortion groups have been scrambling to build on their 49-year crusade to overturn Roe v. Wade, saying that was just the beginning, as abortion rights groups work to counteract state-level bans on abortion.
At a gala this month in Naples, Florida., Hawkins told a crowd of dozens of Students for Life Action donors and others that the fight over abortion was far from over, describing overturning Roe v. Wade as once seeming like an “insurmountable challenge.”
“I can’t ignore the moment that we’re in,” she said. “The battlefield is larger than it’s ever been before.”