Republicans begin to adjust to fierce abortion backlash

Republican candidates face a grim reality check from Kansas voters who are softening their once uncompromising anti-abortion stance as they head toward the general election, recognizing that strict bans are unpopular and that the issue could be a major focus of the fall campaign. driving force.

In swing states and even in conservative corners of the United States, some Republicans have shifted their rhetoric on abortion bans, newly emphasizing support for exceptions. Some people noticeably stopped discussing the details. Now that the Supreme Court has turned long-standing theoretical arguments into reality, a bitter battle has erupted in Republican-dominated state legislatures.

In Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano recently said that “the people of Pennsylvania” will “decide what abortion looks like” in the state, not the governor. In Minnesota, family physician Scott Jensen said in March that he would “trying to ban abortion“As governor, say in the video Posted before the Kansas vote, he did support a few exceptions: “If I wasn’t clear before, I figure it out now.”

While they still believe inflation and the economy will push voters to the GOP, candidates will have to talk about abortion to quell Democratic attacks on the party’s stance, Republican advisers to the Senate and House campaigns said on Thursday. They have begun suggesting that Republicans support a ban that would allow exceptions for pregnancies due to rape or incest or for pregnancies that endanger the mother’s life. They told candidates to emphasize care for women during and after pregnancy.

“If we’re going to ban abortion, we have to do something to make sure there’s less demand for abortion and that women aren’t at risk,” said Rep. Nancy Mace, Republican of South Carolina, who received immunity. State representative, rape and incest counts in her state’s abortion law. Now, she said, Republicans need to press to expand access to gynecological and obstetric care, contraception, including emergency contraception, and even protect the right of women to leave their state to have an abortion without fear of prosecution.

Messaging alone won’t shake the GOP out of the news hustle after the Supreme Court ruling, including the story of a 10-year-old rape victim who crossed state lines to receive an abortion, and headlines about women facing serious health problems Under new, far-reaching restrictions or bans.

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who recently avoided talking about abortion, suspended a Hillsborough County state attorney who refused to prosecute a man who tried to provide a prohibited abortion. people. The state’s new 15-week bansparking outrage from Democrats.

For some, the realignment comes before voters in Republican Kansas voted overwhelmingly Tuesday against removing abortion rights from the state’s constitution. As the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, taking back the process’ constitutional rights, many Republicans have been slow to detail what’s coming next. As they rush to enact long-promised laws, the Republican-led legislature has learned how difficult it is to ban abortion.

“Not only the pro-choice movement, but the pro-life movement was caught off-guard by the Supreme Court,” said West Virginia Representative Brandon Steele, who in a special session of the Legislature urged the Republican Party to ban abortion without exception The absolute majority is blocked. “Without talking points, not being told what to do, lawmakers had to start saying what they were actually going to do. You could see the chaos in the room.”

“We’re finding out who is really pro-life and who is pro-life only to get elected, not just in West Virginia but across the country,” Mr. Steele said.

In Indiana, a special session of the state legislature, which is considering a near-total ban on abortion, has had a lively debate about whether to include exemptions and how far those exemptions should go.

Senator Kyle Walker, Republican of Indiana, said: “For some people, it’s very black and white: if you’re pro-life without exception, or if you’re pro-life without restrictions Choice,” he said abortion should be legal for at least some time. first trimester of pregnancy. “When you’re in a gray area, you’re forced to reconcile your limits in your own mind.”

For months, Republicans have insisted that abortion rights will be a footnote in a midterm campaign battered by the worst inflation in 40 years, crime, immigration and a Democratic president with approval ratings as low as around 40 percent. promote.

That’s still the public line, and even after the Kansas referendum, voters face an issue other than the multiple factors they’ll be considering in November.

But the reality of the campaign is different. Swing voters do raise inflation and economic problems when asked what they think, Republican pollster Sarah Longwell said on her focus group. But when prompted to discuss abortion, real passion erupts. It shows that if Democrats can launch a campaign that puts the issue front and center, they’ll find an audience, she said.

Ms. Mays agreed, saying abortion rates were rising rapidly and Republicans had to respond.

In Minnesota, Dr. Jensen, the Republican candidate expected to take on Gov. Tim Walz, said Roy’s interactions with voters after his fall prompted him to clarify his position. Abortion stance.

“Once the Roe v. Wade decision was overturned, we told Minnesota and basically told everyone we would have a conversation,” he said. “In that conversation, I learned that I needed to elaborate on my position.”

The detailed description includes acceptance of family and maternity leave programs, promotion of a $2,500 adoption tax credit per child, and improved birth control, including over-the-counter oral contraceptives with a price cap.And, like Adam LaxalterNevada Republican Senate nominee, Dr. Jensen noted Abortion Protection The matter has already been settled in Minnesota, not on this year’s ballot.

Mr Walz said he would go on the offensive and would not accept any softening of the Republican line.

“I took them right out of my mouth,” he said of Dr. Jensen and his running mate, former NFL player and anti-abortion rights advocate Matt Burke. “If they had the opportunity, they would have criminalized it while we were trying to protect it. So that has become a central theme, and obviously I think their shift was in response to that.”

According to an analysis by The New York Times, the Kansas vote means about 65 percent of voters nationwide will reject abortion rights, including majorities in more than 40 of the 50 states.

Republicans believe their party can get a veneer of moderation from Democrats, in part by showing sympathy for pregnant women and offering waivers from the abortion ban and viewing Democrats as extremists in regulating abortion. They argue that if Democrats keep abortion at the center of their campaign, they risk being out of touch with voters in an uncertain economic environment.

But Republicans who temper their views will still have to contend with a core support base that remains staunchly opposed to abortion. Abortion opponents said Thursday that Republican candidates should not read too much into Kansas’ vote, a one-issue referendum that voters on both sides criticized as confusingly worded.

“No matter what the advisory class tells candidates, they are wise to recognize that the Right to Life community is an important constituency and an important group of voters,” warned Penny Nance, CEO and president of Focus on Women. United States, a conservative organization against abortion rights.

After the Kansas vote, Democrats stepped up efforts to squeeze their opponents between a conservative base eager to move quickly to ban all abortions and a broader electorate who don’t want such a thing. Rep. Elaine Luria, a moderate Democrat running in a Republican-leaning district in southeastern Virginia, posted a new ad Her Republican opponent, Jen Kiggans, called her “too extreme” on abortion. Ms Luria initially said she would campaign on her work in the region and her support for a major force in the region’s navy, but the situation has changed. Ms Keegan’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

A group aligned with the Democratic Governors Association is already promoting the abortion-related remarks made by Tudor Dixon of Michigan, who won the Republican gubernatorial nomination this week.

“If you believe Tudor Dixon when it comes to banning abortion, she will tell us exactly who she is,” this point, titled “No Exceptions,” with a tone of voice containing clips of Ms Dixon emphasizing her opposition to a range of abortion-related exceptions. Ms Dixon was unequivocal about her position earlier this summer, writing on twitter“My only exception is to protect my mother’s life.”

In a lengthy statement, Ms. Dixon underscored her opposition to a prospective vote measure in Michigan aimed at protecting abortion rights, and she also insisted that her race would be determined by job, school, crime and “what can afford you.” Gasoline and groceries” to define.

For Republicans, one problem could be the widespread tracking of issues they left behind during the primary.

“Whether it’s incest or rape or other concerns about the mother, that baby deserves a right to life,” Mr Mastriano said unequivocally to Republican primary voters in Pennsylvania in May. “

Last month, he said it wasn’t up to him. “You decide the exceptions. You decide how early. It’s in the hands of the people,” he said on Philadelphia Talk Radio. “It’s the truth. It’s not dodging.”

Mitch Smith, Gabriel Tour and Reed J. Epstein Contribution report.

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