Republicans have been gaslighting Americans on abortion for nearly 50 years and it seems they have no intention of stopping. When Roe v. Wade was still on the books, they argued that the Supreme Court should send abortion back to the states and, now that they’re the proverbial dog that caught the car, they want people to believe that abortion will remain a state issue—but zealots are pushing to go much, much further.
One of their favorite whoppers is that abortion is never on the ballot—even though politicians have talked openly about their anti-abortion plans for decades. Then-President Donald Trump denied during a 2020 debate with Joe Biden that Roe was on the ballot, despite his promise (which he kept) in 2016 to only nominate “pro-life” Supreme Court justices so that the court would “automatically” overturn the ruling as a result. (Trump literally said to Biden, “There’s nothing happening there.”)
And it appears that line of thinking is very much still informing Republican strategies. An email from the Minnesota Republican Party instructed candidates on how they should respond if Democrats and the media “try and bait [them] with questions about issues”—God forbid they be forced to talk about issues—
In the email, Minnesota Republican Party Chairman David Hann instructs his fellow partisans to spout the following lies:
Here are the facts: Abortion up to the moment of birth is a protected constitutional right in Minnesota. The only two ways this can be changed are by the Minnesota Supreme Court overturning the existing law or by Minnesota voters passing a state referendum.
Since abortion is not on the ballot, let’s talk about the ongoing issues that affect Minnesotans every day: crime, inflation, the economy, and education.
The statement is contradicted by the state party’s own platform, which was adopted in May 2022, before the Supreme Court overturned Roe:
Defend the Right to Life
Republicans believe that every innocent human being, born and unborn, has an inalienable right to life from conception to natural death. The U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions should be amended to restore legal protection to the lives of innocent human beings from conception to natural death. To that end, we:
• Support legislation that establishes ‘personhood’ at the time of conception.
• Oppose partial birth abortions. Would eliminate taxpayer funding of abortion or abortion providers, particularly Planned Parenthood, and fund Women’s health care.
• Oppose abortions performed on minors without parental consent.
• Advocate prohibiting U.S. promotion or funding of abortion in any nation, and
• Would protect a father’s right to object to a unilateral decision to terminate his unborn child’s life. We call for overturning the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Gomez decisions.
Hann’s claims are also refuted by Republican candidates’ own previous statements. Scott Jensen, the Republican nominee for governor, said in March that if the Supreme Court overturned Roe and he were governor, he would “try to ban abortion.” Jensen has since attempted to backtrack his extremism, claiming in a September ad that abortion is “a protected constitutional right and no governor can change that, and I’m not running to do that.” The Republican nominee for attorney general, Jim Schultz, said during a March candidate forum that, unlike some Republicans who go into a defensive crouch on abortion, he would “be the one going on offense.”
As the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party wrote on Twitter, “Talking about important issues is not baiting, it’s called campaigning. If Republicans cannot defend their plans to ban abortion, that’s on them.”
The state GOP email is yet another example of Republicans attempting to deflect when asked about their supremely unpopular abortion policies and focus the midterms only on the economy. There are several problems with that strategy, one of which is that abortion is a top issue for voters. Another is that abortion access is deeply connected to the economy: People struggling to pay their bills will have an even harder time if they have to feed and clothe another human, or make an expensive trip for an out-of-state abortion. Pennsylvania’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro correctly noted last week that state abortion bans could affect the number of jobs available in any given state as employers expand elsewhere.
But hey, if you ask Republicans about it, they’ll gaslight you and say, “There’s nothing happening there.”