Ohio gave Republicans yet another demonstration of what an electoral disaster their anti-abortion extremism is—but don’t look for them to shift gears now any more than they have after earlier losses.
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake highlights polling showing that among Republican voters who approved of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, there’s growing support for a federal abortion ban. As long as abortion rights were ensured by the federal government, it was “leave it to the states.” Once they’d banned abortion in all the states they could, they started turning their attention to the states that protect abortion rights—and now they want to overrule those states at the federal level.
“Republicans have gone from preferring state restrictions to federal ones by a 48-point margin to preferring them by a 22-point margin,” Blake writes. That’s a significant shift, and it’s an important one when you consider Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates dodging questions or mumbling denials about plans for a federal abortion ban.
And dodging they are. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban for his state, but he doesn’t want to talk about it and he’s intentionally vague on what else he would do, waving off a question on a federal ban by saying he didn’t think Congress would do “anything meaningful” on it—in other words, don’t bother asking him about it. But saying Congress wouldn’t do anything meaningful is very different from saying you wouldn’t support it if they did. Former South Carolina governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has said she would sign a 15-week federal ban, but similarly said she didn’t think Congress would pass it. It’s a totally transparent effort to get anti-abortion support without committing in a way that will be fodder for negative ads in a general election. (Not that Haley has much to worry about there.)
Donald Trump has not wanted to go there because he can see the voter backlash more than most members of his party. But as he seeks support from key anti-abortion groups, he has said he’d “look at” a 15-week federal ban.
Trying to gain ground in the Republican primary, Sen. Tim Scott stopped dodging: @Every day I would sign that bill into law,” he said. In fact, “I would sign the most conservative pro-life legislation you can bring to my desk.” Mike Pence has long been an anti-abortion fanatic whose support for a federal ban has never been in doubt.
But whether they’re dodging questions about it or admitting they’d sign a federal abortion ban, every major Republican in the presidential primary would sign that bill if it came to their desk. Just as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would support it if they thought they could get it through Congress. If you don’t believe that—well, were you taken by surprise when the Supreme Court actually overturned Roe?
After a year of losing elections over abortion rights, Republicans get that they shouldn’t be really loudly trying to pass bans. But they still don’t understand, and may never accept, that voters are not going to be swayed by a slightly tweaked message on this issue. That’s good electoral news for Democrats over the next few years, but terrible news for women seeking health care in this country.
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