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Cartoon on abortion waiting period by Nicole Hollander. One use only.
Given the more than 160 abortion-curtailing laws that state legislatures have imposed in the past two-and-a-half years, it's obvious that when Republicans get the power, they don't pussyfoot around with it, they use it.

If a war on women is called for, they'll bristle at the label, but gladly engage. And there is no evidence they plan to stop trying to make abortion ever more difficult to obtain. Why should they stop? Although fighting Dems have arisen in Virginia and Texas, abortion-rights advocates keep losing. Not every battle, to be sure; we've had some success at blocking rotten new abortion laws and even passing a couple of good ones. But the record-busting list of abortion restrictions passed since January 2011 is appalling. Whether it's disallowing abortions after 20 weeks of gestation (which is unlikely to pass constitutional muster), or closing clinic doors with unreasonable building and other standards (which could very well clear the courts), Republicans have been on a roll.

The question is whether these forced-birther Republicans could hurt themselves, both in the states where such laws have passed and in the 2014 midterms:

Democrats and abortion-rights advocates say Republicans already have overreached—the noticeable uptick in restrictions began with GOP gains in 2010 elections, before Gosnell's prosecution began—and that moderate voters have other priorities. "Defense workers are being furloughed, student loan interest rates have doubled and these Republicans insist on a relentless pursuit of more restrictions on women's freedoms," said Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democrats' national congressional campaign for 2014.

"Swing voters are by their very nature moderate; they want solutions, not ideological warfare." [...]

Israel predicated abortion would be an issue again in the 2013-14 elections that will determine who controls Congress and dozens of statehouses during the final two years of Democratic President Barack Obama's term. He mentioned 12 Republicans who represent districts that Obama won last year and four more where Republican Mitt Romney won by less than 2 percentage points.

To gain back the House, however, Democrats need to gain 17 seats. That's a tall order in a mid-term election amid the universe of districts so heavily gerrymandered by Republicans after the 2010 Census. Conventional wisdom has it that such a gain would be impossible in the sixth year a party has controlled the presidency. Indeed, the statistics bear that out, as Sean Trende has shown. In fact, since 1870, in only three of all the mid-term elections faced under two-term presidents—not just those at the six-year mark—the party holding the White House has lost seats. The exceptions were 1934, 1998 and 2002.

What those stats also show, however, is that only once did a party that got clobbered in one mid-term get hit hard in the other. Since the Republicans have worked so hard to increase voter disgust with them and are continuing to worsen their reputation with women and, over immigration, with Latinos, Democrats aren't entirely off their rockers to think maybe they have a chance not only to narrow the gap in the House, but even to squeeze out a majority.

Doing so will require a strong effort by the party base and inspiration from more fighting Democrats like Wendy Davis. One way to give the whole 2014 project more oomph, as my colleague Steve Singiser has written, is by paying a lot more attention to state legislative races. Since that's where the main damage to women's reproductive rights is happening, that focus ought to be an easy choice. In the long run, victories there can turn Congress around, too.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:46 PM PDT.

Also republished by Abortion, Pro Choice, and Daily Kos.

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