Republicans redo stance on abortion, wary of voter backlash

WASHINGTON — Republicans have spent decades attacking the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, but with t...


WASHINGTON — Republicans have spent decades attacking the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, but with the reversal of Roe v. Wade seemingly imminent, their leaders in Congress and across the country suddenly went silent on the issue, as part of an attempt to avoid a backlash against their party ahead of the midterm elections.

In the days after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn 50-year-old precedent, Republicans in Congress notably refrained from taking a victory lap for helping install the majority conservative who paved the way for such a result.

Even as some of their state-level counterparts rush in with sweeping abortion bans that could even affect some birth control methods, Republicans seem determined to redefine their stance on the issue to one of moderation and distract voters from their anti-abortion platform.

“You need – it seems to me, excuse the conference – to focus on today’s news,” Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said Tuesday. “Not a leaked draft but the fact that the draft was leaked.”

The caution of Republicans reflects the potential of the eventual decision to change the political landscape in the medium term. Their leaders and candidates have built a campaign to regain control of the House and Senate around inflation, economic uncertainty, crime, border control and American doubts that President Biden, who is deeply unpopular, may right the ship.

Now, the prospect of eliminating the right to abortion has added a tectonic shift to American life into the mix, threatening to upend that direction.

Democrats have signaled they plan to use the upcoming decision as a rallying cry for voters to reject Republicans, describing its implications as sweeping and unacceptable.

“This is a defining issue for this country today, and if the American people don’t stand up for equality for every American right now, we will undermine the right to privacy in more than that context,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York. She raised the specter of a conservative Supreme Court attacking same-sex marriage, consensual same-sex relationships and even contraception if the ruling stands.

Republicans, on the other hand, believe their candidates’ job right now is to stay focused on the economy and not let any other issues — especially one that could alienate the suburban independent voters they need to win the majorities in the polls. Congress – distract them.

“Overview, tell me what the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will be and if anything has improved with gas and groceries, and I’ll tell you the results,” said Corry Bliss, a strategist seasoned adviser to Republican candidates. “That’s what it’s going to be about halfway through – full stop, end of discussion.”

Republicans talk about abortion, but not openly. A document released by the National Republican Senate Committee and obtained by Axios urged the candidates to be tight-lipped on the issue, with a post-Roe America looming as early as next month.

“Abortion should be avoided whenever possible,” the document advises candidates. “States should have the flexibility to implement reasonable restrictions.”

Republicans don’t want to throw doctors and women in jail, the document continues. They certainly do not want to suppress contraception. And if any party is extreme, he asked Republicans to argue, it’s the Democrats, who won’t even accept the modest restrictions on abortion that most Americans support.

The approach is calculated to exploit the fact that Democrats, outraged by the decision but powerless to do anything about it, are planning a token vote that officially registers their party against almost all limits on abortion. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats will try — and likely fail — to pass legislation that would not only codify the right to abortion, but also undo restrictions that have been passed by the courts.

“Democrats are going to make it easy for us,” said Mallory Carroll, vice president of communications at Susan B. Anthony List, which works to elect leaders who oppose abortion rights. She called the Democrats Women’s Health Protection Act “far outside the American mainstream.”

And “mainstream” is how the Republican campaign guns want their candidates to present themselves — as soft-spoken, compassionate “consensus builders,” as the talking points put it.

“I’m pro-life, but it’s not about political labels,” the Republican candidate documents suggest. “I believe all Americans want us to welcome every child into the world with open arms. But if you disagree with me, my door is always open.

Governors like Brian Kemp of Georgia and Ron DeSantis of Florida have said relatively little about the issue since the draft advisory was released.

Even former President Donald J. Trump, who campaigned in 2016 to nominate Supreme Court justices who would overrule Roe, refrained from gloating.

“No one knows exactly what this represents,” he told Politico, calling the opinion leak “a terrible thing for the court and for the country.”

“We’ll talk about that after we find out what the final version is,” he said.

It is still possible that the court will not go to the draft. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the leak was genuine but warned the decision was not final.

Yet the problem for Republican leaders in Washington who want to play down the implications of the potential decision is the very clear message coming from their party’s state lawmakers about the harsh restrictions many would enact if there were no more right to abortion in the Constitution. .

On Wednesday, Louisiana lawmakers introduced legislation that would do precisely what Washington’s talking points negate: grant constitutional rights to “all unborn children from the time of fertilization” and classify abortion as homicide. Such a law could indeed put women and doctors in prison and ban certain types of contraception, such as IUDs, which block the implantation of a fertilized egg.

Republicans in South Dakota, Indiana and Nebraska have called for special sessions of their legislatures to pass strict abortion bans as soon as a final decision is announced.

And for all the caution Republican strategists might advise, there is still passion about the issue. New Hampshire State Rep. Susan DeLemus was filmed responding to abortion rights protesters at the State Capitol in Concord, NH on Thursday by shouting that they were “murderers”.

To some extent, abortion opponents say they really are in a moment of unreality. Carol Tobias, chair of the National Right to Life Committee, said she was preparing for a good night’s sleep in her Albuquerque home when news of the draft advisory first broke. She said she thought someone had played a prank on reporters.

Even now, she says she’s careful.

“What came out earlier this week is three months old,” she said. “I sure hope it’s the final version, but I’ve been told it’s not. It is always possible that a judge or two have changed position.

Republicans say their restraint on the issue makes sense. A near total ban on abortion has been in place in Texas for eight months, and apparently no political price has been paid so far.

State Rep. Gene Wu, a Democrat from Houston, said he fears that in Republican states living with growing restrictions on reproductive rights, the response to Roe’s overthrow could be as low-key as it seems. It’s been in Texas, and only in Democratic states, voters will be reassured that their rights are protected.

“It’s been done in a gradual way, it’s like there’s a learned helplessness. We’ve been through so much abuse; what’s more?” he says, comparing the women from states like Texas to frog in the pot of boiling water. “I hope that’s not the case.”

Another factor mitigating the backlash could be the growing popularity of long-term contraception, such as IUDs, and increased access to birth control in general, which has helped reduce the country’s abortion rate in recent years and gave more women a sense of reproductive security. .

A ten year old study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that the percentage of women of childbearing age using long-acting reversible contraception increased steadily, from 2.4% in 2002 to 8.5% in 2009 to 11.6% in 2012. The figure is around 12%. now, said Dr. Nisha Verma, college member and gynecologist in Washington, D.C.

“The need for abortion will never go away,” Dr. Verma said, but, she added, “we’ve certainly seen that people have been able to take more control over their reproductive health.”

Another study in JAMA internal medicine found a 21.6% increase in the use of this contraception in the months following Mr. Trump’s election in 2016, with his vows to install judges who would overthrow Roe.

Emily Cochrane contributed report.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Republicans redo stance on abortion, wary of voter backlash
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