Since June 24, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade and ended a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, Republicans have been trying to outdo each other on abortion restrictions and punishment for women and doctors involved in abortions. Over a dozen Republican-run states have outlawed abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, and those that threaten the life of the mother.
As far as punishment for having an abortion, as stated by Mary Ziegler in The New York Times, the next goal for the pro-life crowd seems to be full recognition of “personhood” for the unborn and “the same legal penalty as murdering or being an accomplice to the murder of a born human being” for women having an abortion at any time during their pregnancy and for any reason.
Meanwhile, even in conservative Kansas, voters are telling Republicans to back off as they voted to retain their state’s constitutional right to an abortion, in line with the opinion of a majority of Americans. Indeed, according to Gallup, 85 percent of Americans support abortion rights in some or all situations and, according to Pew Research Center, only eight percent of adults say abortion should be illegal in all cases. According to a Washington Post poll, 65 percent of Americans said that the Supreme Court ruling represented a major loss of rights for women.
Republican politicians who initially cheered the decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade are now beginning to wonder if they were smart to cheer so loudly. Many, for example, were pushing for Congress to pass laws making abortion illegal across the nation. If Republicans take over the Senate and House in November, they may do just that.
This has caught the attention of American women. Prior to the defeat of Roe vs. Wade, women made up about 49 percent of new registered voters in Kansas. However, according to Yahoo News, “in the week after the court’s decision, more than 70 percent of newly registered voters in Kansas were women, according to an analysis of the state’s registered voter list.” This trend is being repeated in other states.
According to a New York Times/Siena College poll, nine percent of women ranked abortion as their most important issue compared to just one percent of men. These women are voting accordingly. In a recent special election in a conservative district in New York, for example, Democrat Pat Ryan won over Republican Marc Molinaro in part because women voters outnumbered men by an 18-point margin even while accounting for only about 52 percent of registered voters.
Republicans running for office or for reelection are paying attention to the data, and it seems that their pro-life stands are not as strong as they projected prior to the negative feedback they have received from women specifically, but Americans in general.
I’ve always said that Republicans proclaiming to be pro-life was a joke given their anti-life votes on health care, pre-natal care, child care and other issues directly related to the health and well-being of America’s infants and toddlers. How many times does a Republican have to vote against pre-natal care for the unborn, before you realize they don’t really care about the health of the unborn?
What Republicans are concerned about is securing the evangelical and other conservative votes necessary to survive a Republican primary. Once they pass the primary, however, their sincere and strong anti-abortion stances fade away as quickly as their website’s pictures of themselves with former President Donald Trump. As Areeba Shah stated in Salon last week, Republicans are suddenly discovering their deeply felt views against abortion are not as strong as their deeply felt views about getting reelected.
Blake Masters, the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona had posted on his website that he was “100 percent pro-life” and that, once elected, would push for “a federal personhood law [ideally a Constitutional amendment] that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed.” Interestingly, all of that material on his website has been removed as polling shows him behind in his Senate race.
Tom Barrett is running for a U.S. House seat in Michigan and his website stated that he was opposed to abortion under any circumstances, even in cases of rape or incest. But all of that has been removed from his website, according to Jonathan Cohn, writing in The New York Times, after two Michigan polls found that the number one issue for Michigan voters was abortion rights.
The list goes on as Republicans start to see the writing on the wall. They are out of step with most Americans and their votes on important issues such as abortion, gun control, and voting restrictions are catching up with them.
Tom Zirpoli is the Laurence J. Adams Distinguished Chair in Special Education Emeritus at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at email@example.com.