Abortion now a political Achilles heel for Republicans

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The majority of Americans support the right to abortion in all or most cases, with an even larger majority opposing legislation that denies exceptions for rape and incest victims or criminalizes interstate travel for pregnant women seeking abortions.

Swing states lean pro-choice: Arizona 62%, Georgia 57%, Michigan 66%, Nevada 80%, North Carolina 62%, Pennsylvania 61%, and Wisconsin 64%. Only seven states in the US have anti-abortion majorities, with 42-49% of their citizens being pro-choice. For the first time since the 1990s, less than 40% of Americans identify as “pro-life.” Interestingly, the percentage of Republicans in the US who believe all abortions should be illegal has decreased from 21% to 14%.

Following the Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling that abortion is not a constitutionally protected right, more pro-choice Americans now consider the issue a political litmus test. In 2020, 15% of voters said they would only support candidates who championed reproductive rights; now, 26% make that claim. The percentage of those who would only vote for anti-abortion candidates has declined from 29% to 25%.

After the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, women’s voter registration surged. Abortion, alongside the selection of extremist candidates in battleground states, contributed significantly to Republicans’ underperformance in the 2022 midterm elections.

In the latter half of 2022, all five statewide ballot measures supporting abortion passed. Voters in staunchly conservative Kansas and Kentucky overwhelmingly rejected measures to add language to their state constitutions declaring that abortion is not a fundamental right. In a nominally non-partisan election for a seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court in April 2023, a liberal who pledged to protect reproductive rights easily defeated a conservative backed by the state’s anti-abortion organizations.

However, Republican lawmakers and governors seem to have missed the message or deliberately ignored it, providing Democrats with political ammunition.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – OCTOBER 21: Members of pro choice group Alliance for Choice make their way to Stormont on October 21, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Legislation brought in by MPs at Westminster in the absence of the Northern Ireland power sharing executive meant that abortion will be decriminalised in the province unless the executive reconvened by the 21st of October. A last ditch attempt by the Democratic Unionist party led by Arlene Foster to block the imminent changers to Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws failed today due to the lack of cross party involvement at Stormont. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Over a dozen states now ban abortion, with others no longer protecting reproductive rights or offering facilities for women to obtain abortions. Texas has criminalized abortion from the moment of fertilization unless the pregnancy causes a life-threatening physical condition. Abortion providers face penalties up to life imprisonment and fines of $100,000. Texas law allows private citizens to file civil suits against anyone who aids or abets an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, with a fine of up to $10,000. This month, Idaho, which already banned all abortions except those resulting from rape or incest or to save the mother’s life, enacted legislation that subjects anyone convicted of helping a minor get an abortion in another state (through medication or surgery) to a prison term of 2-5 years.

Recently, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk banned the widely used abortion pill Mifepristone across the US. In a decision filled with anti-abortion activist terminology, Kacsmaryk accused the FDA, which approved Mifepristone 23 years ago, of bypassing safety precautions to promote the political goal of increased access to abortion.

Abortion puts Republican politicians in a difficult position. Anti-abortion activists, a significant portion of the MAGA base, threaten to penalize candidates who do not fully support personhood from conception and total bans with no exceptions. Party professionals, on the other hand, see “the Dobbs effect” as potentially devastating in the 2024 general election and advise candidates to avoid extreme positions.

Notably, Donald Trump is playing both sides. While continuing to claim credit for appointing the three Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, the former president acknowledges that Republicans “are getting killed on the abortion issue.” When asked during a trip to Iowa in March if he supported

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