Nearly a year after the Supreme Court made abortion a dominant issue of the 2022 midterm elections, the fight over abortion rights has catapulted to the center of the emerging 2024 election season, inflaming Democrats, dividing Republicans and sparking sensitive debates. about health care.
From North Carolina to Nevada, Democrats at every level of government pledge to make support for abortion rights a pillar of their campaigns and paint their opponents as extremists on the issue.
And as races heat up, Republicans find themselves caught between the demands of their socially conservative base and a broader American public that generally supports abortion rights, exposing one of the party’s biggest political commitments as it tries to reclaim the White House, retake the Senate and expand it. its narrow house majority.
Democrats narrowly brushed aside the Supreme Court’s order, warning that many Republicans still want as many abortion restrictions as possible, including a national ban. At the same time, Republican presidential candidates — whose teams have generally failed to respond to requests for comment on Friday night’s Supreme Court ruling — are scrambling to gain a foothold on the issue.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, when many women don’t know they are pregnant. Others, such as South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, have struggled express firm positions. And former President Donald J. Trump, whose Supreme Court picks helped overturn Roe v. Wade, recently angered anti-abortion leaders by emphasizing state power over the issue rather than a national ban .
“I’m afraid we’ll let the Democrats use the issue to define us because we’re not very good at our own messages,” said New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu, who signed a measure banning abortions after 24 years . weeks, with few exceptions. Mr. Sununu, who calls himself “pro-choice,” was the rare possible Republican presidential candidate to comment Friday on the court’s ruling: “Good Supreme Court decision.”
Representative Suzan DelBene, a Washington Democrat who heads the House campaign arm of the Democrats, said Republicans have moved in an increasingly “extreme” direction on abortion. For example, she pointed to a law in Idaho that criminalizes those who help a minor get an out-of-state abortion without parental consent, and wider threats to abortion medications.
“It’s dangerous and people are angry,” she said. “We’re going to see that in 2024 in elections across the country.”
While President Biden is on track to announce a re-election bid as early as Tuesday, one of his advisers predicted that the issue of abortion rights would be more important in 2024 than it was last year as Americans experience the far-reaching results of overthrowing Roe.
Democrats are closely watching — and eagerly broadcasting — the stances on abortion that Republicans take in the early stages of the primary season. And they print their own concise message.
“We support women making decisions about their health care,” said Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who leads the Democratic Senate campaign arm. “Not politicians, not judges.”
Republicans are much more divided on what their pitch should be — and party officials recognize that this poses a major challenge.
A conflict always arises between the demands of primary voters and the preferences of voters in general elections. But Roe’s overthrow dramatically complicated this calculus for Republican candidates. They now face detailed questions about whether or not to support national bans; how soon in a pregnancy abortion bans should apply; what exceptions, if any, to allow; and how they view medication used in abortions and miscarriages.
“We wrap around the axis and try to nuance our position as a candidate or party through the primaries, knowing that we will have to re-explain ourselves in general,” Mr Sununu said. “It comes across as insincere, convoluted and at the end of the day it really drives voters away.”
The fault lines in the party have been lit up again in the past week. After a spokesperson for Mr. Trump told The Washington Post that the former president believed abortion should be decided at the state level, the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony issued a stern rebuke to Pro-Life America.
“We will oppose any presidential candidate who refuses to embrace at least a national standard of 15 weeks to stop painful late-term abortions while allowing states to provide further protections,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the organization’s president. a statement.
In a separate statement, Trump’s campaign said he “believes it’s in the states where the greatest progress can be made right now to protect the unborn,” calling him the “most pro-life president in American history.” mentioned.
There will be no shortage of opportunities for Republican candidates to emphasize their anti-abortion credentials and navigate the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision, which begins as early as Saturday, at a meeting of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. On Tuesday, Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador, is also expected to give a speech on abortion.
Bob Vander Place, an Iowa social-conservative leader whose organization is expected to host a meeting with presidential candidates this summer, said: “There are many ways to determine someone’s bona fides when it comes to the sanctity of human life, but I guarantee you that the ruling will be discussed in Texas.
The issue of abortion, he said, “will be a cornerstone of the Iowa caucuses. It will be a cornerstone of the Republican primaries.”
On Thursday, Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, tried to help her candidates navigate the topic, suggesting that opposing abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy was a politically strong stance, somewhat mirroring polls they suffered from of her party. .
“In 2022, many Republican candidates have followed the bad advice of their DC advisers to ignore the topic,” she said in a speech. She saw the onslaught of Democratic ads on the subject and said, “Most Republicans didn’t respond.”
She urged Republicans to view Democrats as “extreme” on the issue, a message echoed by some who work on races in the House and Senate who say Democrats should be pressured on the issue. restrictions they support.
Nicole McCleskey, a Republican pollster who worked last year for the successful reelection campaign of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, pointed to Ms. determined that issue. All three had comfortable victories in states that often lean to the right, but are not the most conservative states in the country.
“In the last election, there were some candidates who were unclear or changed positions, lacked conviction and were not prepared to talk about this issue,” she said. “If you have those things — if you have conviction, if you have empathy, if you are prepared and you know how to define yourself and your opposition,” she added, “we can successfully navigate this issue.”
But some candidates have shown little interest in managing a rhetorical balancing act.
The issue is likely to come to a head in North Carolina, home to arguably the most sweeping gubernatorial race of 2024, with Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, holding a limited term.
Mark Robinson, the state’s often inflammatory lieutenant governor and a Republican, is expected to announce a candidacy for governor as early as Saturday.
Mr Robinson, who has said he and his now-wife aborted a pregnancy decades ago, has done so ever since made clear that he wants much tighter restrictions on abortion rights in North Carolina, casting doubt on the need for exceptions in rape and incest cases. The procedure is currently legal up to 20 weeks gestation in the state, where Republicans have a supermajority in the legislature.
Josh Stein, the state’s Democratic attorney general running for governor, said in an interview that there was “no doubt” he saw abortion rights written directly on the ballot. That message was effective last year for Democrats in gubernatorial races in several critical states.
“The only reason North Carolina doesn’t have an abortion ban now is because we have a Democratic governor,” Stein said.
A spokesman for Mr Robinson declined to comment on this article.
For Democrats elsewhere, it may be more challenging to argue that their races will decide the fate of abortion rights in their state, especially in places where abortion protections are codified. And it’s far too early to know what mix of issues will ultimately shape 2024 campaigns.
Still, Democrats noted that if the Supreme Court had allowed the ruling to stand in Texas, there would have been major nationwide repercussions — and many are stressing the possibility of national abortion bans depending on the composition of the White House and Congress.
“Even though we currently have protections for this in Nevada, if a nationwide ban on abortion is imposed, Nevadans will suffer and women will die,” said Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat who recently announced her re-election bid. an interview.
In a statement, Ms Rosen called the Supreme Court order “a temporary relief”. But in the interview, she said the Texas ruling underlines how a conservative judge can threaten the power of a major government agency.
“It’s pretty scary,” she said.