Forty-one years after the Supreme Court nationally legalized abortion in the landmark Roe v. Wade case, a woman’s right to choose is as hotly contested as ever.
In fact, Republicans are prepared to make abortion rights a central issue in the 2014 congressional elections. Rather than downplay the subject, Republican strategists are urging candidates to be outspoken about their pro-life stance during campaigns.
The Republican National Committee is spearheading this renewed emphasis on social issues, with a “Resolution on Republican Pro-Life Strategy” that reads:
The Republican National Committee urges all Republican pro-life candidates, consultants, and other national Republican Political Action Committees to reject a strategy of silence on the abortion issue when candidates are attacked with ‘war on women’ rhetoric.
Ellen Barrosse, an RNC committeewoman, defended the resolution, claiming recent candidates like Virginia gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli and presidential nominee Mitt Romney suffered after being attacked by their Democratic opponents for waging a “war on women.”
“Not responding has not worked well for us. It’s a conversation the party has to have,” Barrosse told CNN.
Here are five ways Republicans are ending their “silence” on their anti-choice position.
Running Extreme Anti-Choice Candidates
Whether or not Ken Cuccinelli actually suffered for remaining “silent” on women’s health issues is certainly debatable. In the wake of a government shutdown, a scandal that would eventually lead to the indictment of Virginia’s then-governor (and close Cuccinelli ally) Bob McDonnell, and an ailing U.S. economy, abortion became a central issue to many Virginia voters in the 2013 gubernatorial election.
It was an issue Cuccinelli purposefully brought to the foreground of the race. And it appears to have backfired.
Despite Cuccinelli’s loss, his campaign platform may now be the norm among Republican candidates. One has to look no further then current Texas Senate candidate Steve Stockman or current Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal for further evidence of the GOP’s far-right stance on a woman’s right to choose.
Rep. Stockman is particularly outspoken on his stance against abortion. He’s made a few very public and incendiary statements about the procedure. Last April, Stockman announced his new campaign bumpersticker slogan: “If babies had guns, they wouldn’t be aborted.” He also clarified his position on abortion and the Affordable Care Act in April, saying: “Will abortion be the only medical procedure not wait-listed and rationed under Obamacare?”
Jindal proved his allegiance to the anti-choice crowd by signing a ban on abortions of 20 weeks. State initiatives that limit abortion have become a common tactic by Republicans wanting to limit Roe.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Painting Abortion As A Tax And Spend Issue
GOP politicians seem to be catching on that talk about “legitimate rape” and children born of incest does not play well to the average female voter. Their response? Pander to Republican voters’ other faith-driven political issue: Economics.
In a useful political move, House Republicans will make passing a “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act” a priority this year, effectively tying their anti-choice stance to the Affordable Care Act, an issue they want at the center of debate during the midterm elections.
Despite the fact that the Affordable Care Act does not allocate public funds for abortion, the fiscal conservative message used by Republicans may matter in states like Oregon. “We don’t make this a pro-life thing,” said Jeff Jimerson, who is organizing a petition drive in Oregon, which would outlaw the use of state funds to pay for any abortion except if the mother is in serious medical danger. “This is a pro-taxpayer thing. There are a lot of libertarians in Oregon, people who don’t really care what you do, just don’t make me pay for it.”
Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr
State Initiatives That Limit Abortion
A nuanced shift in how Republicans frame the abortion issue is certainly not the only attack they’ve launched on abortion rights in the U.S. In fact, more state abortion restrictions were passed in the past three years than in the entire previous decade. In 2013 alone, 22 states enacted 70 different abortion restrictions. According to a Guttmacher Institute report, this makes 2013 second only to 2011 in the number of restrictions passed by states in a single year.
It’s hard to keep track of all the states that have passed restrictive abortion laws in recent years. Restrictions on the state level, while occasionally blocked by the courts, may well be the single greatest threat to Roe.
North Dakota Republican governor Jack Dalrymple, for example, signed a bill that criminalizes abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The law is widely considered the most restrictive abortion measure on the books.
Other initiatives introduced on a state level include a bill in Texas that shuttered a third of reproductive health clinics and multiple bills in Oklahoma that sought to ban medical abortion.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Busing GOPers To The March For Life
Wednesday, Jan. 22 was a busy day for Washington’s Republican elite. The Republican National Committee’s winter meeting and the March for Life, the annual anti-choice demonstration on the National Mall, were both held on the same day.
But members of the RNC didn’t need to worry: The Republican Party provided free shuttle buses from the march to the RNC’s winter meeting. They also delayed the meeting for a few hours, to ensure members had enough time to attend both.
“We thought it only fitting for our members to attend the march,” said RNC chairman Reince Priebus.
AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan
War Against Planned Parenthood
Funding for Planned Parenthood has played an integral in role in recent budget debates and the backlash over the Affordable Care Act. The idea that taxpayer money could be used to pay for abortions is a hot-button issue for conservatives in Congress (despite the fact that federal law prohibits Planned Parenthood from using the money it receives from the government on abortions).
But the GOP’s assault on the organization in an effort to restrict abortions is misplaced. In fact, as the above graph shows, the vast majority of aid that Planned Parenthood provides is STD testing and treatment, contraception, and cancer screening. Just 3 percent of its budget is spent on abortion services.
Undeterred, the GOP has recently called for the Government Accountability Office to investigate how Planned Parenthood spends its government dollars, in an effort to strip all its government funding.
Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) offered straight talk about defunding Planned Parenthood in a press conference when she joined with other Republicans in calling for the investigation. Rep. Black said: “My hope is that through greater transparency and accountability we can successfully mobilize the support needed to defund abortion providers — once and for all.”