Republicans are coming to the awkward realization they may have to talk about abortion

Republicans are coming to the awkward realization they may have to talk about abortion

August 5, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

They’ve tried ignoring it, changing the subject from abortion to gas prices or really anything else. (Inconveniently for Republicans, falling gas prices are taking away one of their key talking points.) They’re realizing, though, that ignoring abortion won’t fly.

That’s led to some interesting backpedals. Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano has recently taken the position that, as governor, he wouldn’t have any influence over abortion policy anyway, saying, ”You decide on exceptions. You decide on how early. And that’s in the hands of the people.” (The governor does, in fact, have a role in abortion policy, and during the Republican primary, Mastriano said, “That baby deserves a right to life whether it is conceived in incest or rape or there are concerns otherwise for the mom.”)

The Republican nominee for governor in Minnesota has likewise gone from saying he would “try to ban abortion” to making a big point of the exceptions he would support in an abortion ban. Republican consultants told The New York Times that was in line with their current advice: that candidates should emphasize their support for exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother; also, the consultants “have told candidates to emphasize care for women during and after their pregnancies.” Republicans oppose paid family leave and when the House voted on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in 2021, nearly half of Republicans opposed the bill.

These recommendations are coming because Republicans are realizing that whoops, people care about this issue and just talking about gas prices probably won’t be enough. “Sarah Longwell, a Republican pollster, said in her focus groups that swing voters do bring up inflation and the economy when asked what issues are on their minds. But when prompted to discuss abortion, real passion flares. That indicates that if Democrats can prosecute a campaign to keep the issue front and center, they will find an audience, she said,” the Times reports.

The problem for Republican consultants is that there are still a lot of Republicans who aren’t backing down. Some are trying to change the subject, like Michigan Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon, who hasn’t softened her stance on abortion but is trying to stick to the practice of deflecting and focusing on other issues. That effort is complicated, though, by the fact that members of their party keep making abortion very relevant, as when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended a state attorney who declined to prosecute violations of the state’s 15-week abortion ban. 

Indiana legislators are serving up some great material for anyone who wants to show how extreme Republicans are on abortion:

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Whatever Republicans say about their positions as they campaign, this is what their party is trying to do with power—including at the federal level, where they have introduced dozens of attempts to restrict abortion rights.

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