A growing number of Republicans are changing their positions on abortion since the fall of Roe v Wade as the US midterm elections approach, marking a soft shift from their previously staunch anti-abortion positions.
Since the Supreme Court overturned a federal abortion right in June, many Republicans have been taking more conciliatory positions in efforts to win votes in key states through a series of changes in messaging on websites, ads and public statements.
The moves come amid a wild backlash to the ruling that has reignited Democratic midterm election hopes and even a staunchly red state like Kansas voting in a referendum to preserve some abortion rights.
As the midterm elections approach, abortion has also served as a major motivator for women voters across the country, especially among Democrats, and is fueling impressive special election gains for the party seeking to hold both houses of Congress.
According to a new Pew Research Center survey, 56% of voters say the issue of abortion will be “very important” to them at the polls this fall, up from 43% in March.
In addition, an increase number states including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are seeing widening gaps between women and men among new registrants after the high court overturned federal abortion rights, according to Democratic data services firm TargetSmart.
As a result, Republicans increasingly recognize that the abortion issue could cost them dearly at the polls as they try to gain control of the House and Senate.
The difficulty of transitioning from gung-ho anti-abortion rhetoric to a more complex reality for many Republicans was made clear by the Kansas referendum. The usually reliably Republican state has voted to keep abortion protections in its state constitution, giving red-state America an unprecedented boost to the abortion rights movement.
“The vote earlier this summer in Kansas is a wake-up call to Republicans that not only are the most extreme restrictions on abortion a non-starter with voters, but the whole issue has been spun as a motivator for Democrats to head to the polls,” he said. Republican Sen. Barrett Marson. the guardian.
“Over the years, it was okay to support stricter abortion regulations in Republican primaries because abortion was generally protected by Roe v Wade. Now it is no longer theoretical. So now the more restrictive policies have real-life consequences. And suburban women give more weight to a candidate’s position on abortion when considering who to vote for,” she added.
Earlier this week, a Republican Senate candidate in Washington state said she was anti-abortion — but supported a state law guaranteeing the right to an abortion until the fetus is viable.
“I respect the voters of Washington state,” said Tiffany Smiley, who previously said she was “100 percent pro-life.” “They decided a long time ago where they stand on the issue,” she added, referring to the state law passed in 1991.
In an ad released last week, Smiley told viewers she was “pro-life, but I opposed the federal ban on abortion.” The ad came in response to an ad by Patty Murray, Smiley’s Democratic opponent, who called Smiley “Mitch McConnell’s handpicked nominee,” referring to the Senate Republican leader known for his anti- of abortion and is pushing to pack the Supreme Court with conservative anti-abortion justices.
Murray’s ad claimed that if elected, Smiley would support federal abortion bans.
“Murray is trying to scare you, I’m trying to serve you.” Smiley said, “I made it clear in my ad that … I am not in favor of a federal ban on abortion. You know, the outlier in this race is Patty Murray. He is in favor of the federalization of abortion.”
But earlier this year, Smiley’s campaign received the endorsement of Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, an outspoken anti-abortion activist who previously was introduced a Senate bill that sought to strip federal funding from all abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood.
Another Republican whose position change has been more pronounced than Smiley’s is Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters.
In an interview in March with the Catholic news agency EWTN, Masters said: “Every society has had child sacrifice or has had human sacrifice in some form, and this is our form. And it has to stop,” referring to abortion.
Since then, Masters appears to have softened his views on abortion. In August, running mate Donald Trump released an ad that said: “Look, I support banning late-term and partial-birth abortions. And most Americans agree with that. That would simply put us on a par with other civilized nations.”
In addition, Masters made changes to his campaign website, which once stated that he supported a “federal personhood law” and was “100% pro-life.” His website today says, “Protect babies, don’t let them get killed,” followed by “Democrats are lying about my views on abortion.”
According to his current campaign website, Masters would support a federal ban on third-trimester abortions. Previously, his website said he supported a constitutional amendment that “recognizes that unborn babies are people[s] which may not be killed’.
The pro-abortion group Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America defended Masters’ changing position. “Blake Masters has rightly focused his position on what is now feasible at the federal level: a limit on abortions at a point where the unborn child can feel excruciating pain,” said organization president Marjorie Dannenfelser.
Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen has signaled a similar softening of his position on abortion. In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio in March, Jensen said, “I would try to ban abortion. I think we’re basically in a situation where we should be governed … there’s no reason to have abortions when we go out.”
However, Jensen went back on his words a few months later. In a video released in July, Jensen said he supports abortion in cases of rape or incest, or if the woman’s life is in danger.
Jensen described his earlier comments as clumsy, saying, “I never felt it necessary to try to determine what those exceptions might be in terms of legal abortion or not, because I’ve always thought when I support the life of the pregnant woman and whether the physical health is in danger or in peril, that is all that needs to be said.’
Despite Jensen’s edited comments, not everyone is convinced he’s being honest about his position. Minnesota Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin said that if Jensen is elected, he will try to pass a comprehensive abortion law that does not make exceptions for rape or incest.
“There is no reason to assume that Gov. Scott Jensen would not attempt to pass the abortion ban — with no exceptions for rape and incest — that he has repeatedly supported,” he said in a statement.
In May, Iowa Republican candidate Zach Nunn raised his hand during a primary debate when asked whether “all abortions, no exceptions” should be illegal.
Nunn also previously voted for a measure that would have required women seeking an abortion to wait 72 hours. The measure included an exception to protect the life of the mother, but did not mention cases of rape and incest.
Nunn’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Cindy Axne, released a political ad against him that used footage of him raising his hand in the primary. “Even in the case of rape, even in the case of incest, even if a woman’s life is in danger – who will take away a woman’s right to make her own decisions, regardless of the circumstances? Zach Nunn,” the video said.
In response to the video, Nunn changed his tune in an op-ed he published last month, saying, “I am pro-life and I support protecting the life of the mother and the baby.” He accused Axne of taking his comments out of context and went on to say, “This issue is very important: Iowans deserve to have their voices heard.”
In the article, Nunn said he supports abortion in “exceptions for horrific circumstances such as rape, incest and fetal abnormalities and to save the life of the mother.”
With many Republicans trying to secure votes from moderates and independents, some political strategists worry that all this effort spent reshaping their positions on abortion could hurt their political momentum, especially as Democrats make the a cornerstone issue in their own campaigns.
“While the economy and inflation should be the most important issue this cycle, Republican candidates must now defend their positions on eliminating all or most abortion options,” Marson said.
“Whenever they’re not talking [about the] economy and inflation, they are losing opportunities.”