Republicans keep losing on abortion again and again, and it appears the party is thinking of maybe doing something about it. No, they’re not going to change their positions, that’d be silly, they’re just going to look at using different words. Namely, maybe not using the term “pro-life” as much. Because the term “pro-life” is the real problem...not the horrific outcomes of anti-abortion policies.
NBC News recently reported that Senate Republicans had a closed-door meeting where they discussed polling which showed that—more than a year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade—“pro-life” is no longer resonating with voters.
NBC didn’t view the actual poll results, but the Wall Street Journal published them. The research found the GOP has a problem with Republican women, in particular. When asked if they thought of themselves as more pro-choice, pro-life, or somewhere in between, 24% of GOP women said they were pro-choice, 32% said in between, and 44% said pro-life. On the court overturning Roe, a staggering 41% of Republican women opposed it, as did 68% of Independent women.
After the meeting, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) seemed surprised that voters were correctly connecting the term to actual Republican policies. Abortion is banned at six weeks of pregnancy or earlier in 17 states. Bans in 11 of those states have no exceptions for rape and incest. “What intrigued me the most about the results was that ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ means something different now, that people see being ‘pro-life’ as being against all abortions...at all levels,” Cramer told NBC.
It’s a telling admission that Republicans see flashing warning signs going into next year’s presidential election, but no rebrand in the world can fix the problem of people nearly bleeding out from miscarriages, of adolescent rape survivors having to travel out of state for abortions, or of families sinking into poverty from babies they were forced to have. The public knows the harm of banning abortion because they see it in the news practically every week via horror stories or wild new Republican proposals. Abortion bans are politically toxic and the party has to now lie in the bed it made. The jig is up, you can’t pivot to being “pro-baby,” or whatever nonsense a Republican Senator says to a reporter.
Like Cramer, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also appeared a little confused that the term is rightly associated with total bans on abortion. “Many voters think [‘pro-life’] means you’re for no exceptions in favor of abortion ever, ever, and ‘pro-choice’ now can mean any number of things,” Hawley said. “So the conversation was mostly oriented around how voters think of those labels, that they’ve shifted. So if you’re going to talk about the issue, you need to be specific.”
Sen. Cynthia Lummis, (R-Wyo.) also said “pro-life” wasn’t helpful as an identifier anymore: “People require more in-depth discussions; you can’t get away with a label anymore.”
What these assholes are leaving unsaid is that it was helpful for them and hundreds of other politicians to campaign on banning abortion because overturning Roe was a pipe dream at best—something they could say to gain favor with religious voters without worrying about the consequences. Now that abortion bans are actually a reality, and they keep losing, they’re trying to deploy smoke and mirrors to distract people from the very real possibility of a national abortion ban if Republicans take back the White House. Or, in the words of Lummis, you can no longer “get away with” telling people you oppose abortion: You have to tell them to their face exactly how early in pregnancy you would ban the procedure.
The polling was presented by Stephen Law, a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and current head of the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund super PAC. The meeting was “informational,” with Senators saying Law wasn’t trying to change their messaging, though he was reportedly “highlighting findings that he said could have a negative impact on elections.” So I must now remind you that, during the crucial 2022 midterm elections, not only did Democrats maintain control of the Senate, they gained a seat. This gain came when Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) beat anti-abortion Mehmet Oz, but at least four other GOP Senate candidates lost what could have been winnable races if not for their toxic views.
Christina Reynolds, a spokesperson for Emily’s List, which supports pro-choice women voting for office, told NBC that any Republican shift in wording is mere window dressing. “I think their messaging was not the problem,” Reynolds said. “Their position is the problem, and they’re going to be stuck with those positions.”
Jenny Lawson, the executive director for Planned Parenthood Votes, told Jezebel in a statement that the GOP changing how they talk about their anti-abortion agenda is the latest example of them retreating on a losing issue. “Time and again, particularly since the Dobbs decision, politicians hostile to reproductive rights have proven that they would rather mislead voters than change their unpopular and harmful positions,” Lawson said, noting that elections and polling keep showing that abortion rights are “overwhelmingly popular.” She added the group will “continue to make sure voters know exactly where these anti-abortion extremists stand on this issue, as well as their long records voting to strip their constituents of their rights.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm for Senate Republicans, is showing exactly how they plan to mislead voters, by saying in one breath that they want candidates to oppose a nationwide abortion ban, but support a ban on abortion later in pregnancy. It sounds like this: A source close to the NRSC said the group “is encouraging Republicans to clearly state their opposition to a national abortion ban and support for reasonable limits on late-term abortions when babies can feel pain with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.”
Over the next year, keep your antennae up for words like “pro-baby,” “reasonable limits,” and “minimum standard.” This is all just the same devil in disguise.