Anti-Abortion Groups Are Mad That Republicans Are Avoiding Talking About Abortion

Why won't GOP candidates talk about their deeply unpopular stances on the issue? It's a big mystery.

Anti-Abortion Groups Are Mad That Republicans Are Avoiding Talking About Abortion
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during his news conference announcing a national abortion ban, with Marjorie Dannenfelser, left, President of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, . Photo:Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc (Getty Images)

Apparently, some Republican strategists are smart enough to advise their candidates not to talk about their deeply unpopular stances on abortion in the lead-up to the highly consequential midterm elections. And apparently, this angers anti-abortion groups who’ve supported their campaigns and careers.

Influential groups Students for Life and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America both ran to Politico to air their grievances. They complained that Republicans are ceding the issue to Democrats, when they should be calling Democrats’ abortion positions “extreme” and highlighting policies to help parents, like paid family leave, which they do not support in any meaningful way.

“We’re not saying don’t talk about gas prices and the economy. Those are salient issues voters care deeply about,” Mallory Carroll, a spokesperson for SBA, told Politico. “But pro-life Republicans must account for their policy positions on abortion. With pro-abortion Democrats holding rallies specifically to talk about abortion, pro-life Republicans have an opportunity to present a strong contrast to that.”

“Any candidate is making a mistake thinking that they can hide from these issues. Crime is an issue whether you want to talk about it or not. Abortion is an issue whether you want to talk about it or not,” said Kristi Hamrick, spokesperson for Students for Life. “It’s politically naive to think, especially in a post-Dobbs environment, that you’re going to ignore the issue of abortion.”

Hm, I wonder why Republican candidates don’t want to talk about abortion. Could it be the headlines about fetuses without skulls, delayed cancer treatments, six-hour ambulance rides, and 10-year-old rape survivors?

Thankfully, Politico spoke to some people who pointed out the obvious: Abortion is not a winning issue for Republicans.

  • Former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, who led the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC): “If you’re debating abortion at this point, you’re losing.”
  • Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “In the aggregate, the abortion issue at the national level is an absolute loser for Republican candidates.”
  • Democratic strategist Chuck Rocha: “I think these Republican groups that are forcing Republicans to lean into abortion is going to bite them in their ass.”

Rocha noted that these anti-abortion organizations are probably trying to turn out people who voted for former president Donald Trump in a year when he’s not on the ballot—but he still thinks it could backfire. Short of the candidates themselves talking about abortion, Students for Life and SBA will knock on millions of doors and reach others via phone calls, texting, and digital and TV ads.

This story comes about a week after reporting revealed that SBA issued an ultimatum—threatening to reduce lawmakers’ “pro-life” ratings—if they didn’t cosponsor a nationwide abortion ban before September 30. (Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) unveiled the 15-week ban standing alongside the SBA president, Marjorie Dannenfelser.) Senators mostly balked, with bill cosponsors only increasing from three to nine, so the group extended the deadline through Election Day, November 8, according to a report from Semafor before the publication’s official launch.

The ultimatum reportedly angered Republicans who didn’t want to sign on to the bill so close to the election—especially when the party line was that abortion should be a state issue, not a federal one.

“We should be able to reasonably disagree on the best pro-life legislative strategy at this exact moment,” said a Republican staffer familiar with the conversation around the SBA letter. “Threatening pro-life senators with a reduced score unless they adopt a policy only previously discussed by SBA and Graham is divisive, and it’s going to make their scorecard look silly. SBA is overplaying their hand, and offices will remember this attempt to strong-arm us.”

Republicans shying away from abortion doesn’t mean that Democrats will definitely keep the House and Senate, but if you have to threaten your candidates to talk about an issue, you’ve got problems.

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