Republican National Committee Vows To 'Go On Offense' Over Abortion
Republicans didn’t get the big red wave they expected in November’s elections, thanks to voter anger over harsh abortion bans. So how are Republicans going to do better in 2024? By embracing harsh abortion bans, if the Republican National Committee has anything to say about it. That’s the party’s official position as laid out at length in a resolution passed by the RNC on Monday.
See, the problem is that Republicans didn’t talk about abortion enough in 2022. “Instead of fighting back and exposing Democratic extremism on abortion, many Republican candidates failed to remind Americans of our proud heritage of challenging slavery, segregation, and the forces eroding the family and the sanctity of human life, thereby allowing Democrats to define our longtime position,” in the resolution’s words.
The RNC passed the resolution in the wake of Ronna McDaniel’s reelection as chair and, in that context, it looks like a Kevin McCarthy-style concession to the far right. McDaniel was reelected easily compared with McCarthy’s 15 rounds of speaker votes, but the chair fight drew enough attention, and her opponents drew enough votes, to give her reason to try to shore up her right flank. As ways of doing that go, though, “more abortion bans” is a glorious gift to Democrats.
The resolution for action moving forward is twofold. First, there’s a plan to “go on offense,” aka lie. “The Republican National Committee urges all Republican pro-life candidates, consultants, and other national Republican Political Action Committees to remember this proud heritage, go on offense in the 2024 election cycle, and expose the Democrats’ extreme position of supporting abortion on-demand up until the moment of birth, paid for by the taxpayers, even supporting discriminatory abortions such as gender selection or when the child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.”
That is simply not the position of the Democratic Party. So that’s step one: “Hey, Republicans, you didn’t lie about Democrats enough in 2022! Fix that in 2024!”
The second part of the action plan is to pass more anti-abortion laws, specifically ones based on disinformation. Yep, voters dealt you a historic rebuke in 2022 over the anti-abortion laws you had already passed, but this time is going to be different.
“The Republican National Committee urges Republican lawmakers in state legislatures and in Congress to pass the strongest pro-life legislation possible – such as laws that acknowledge the beating hearts and experiences of pain in the unborn – underscoring the new relics of barbarism the Democratic Party represents as we approach the 2024 cycle.”
The “beating hearts” part means six-week abortion bans based on the first signs of cardiac activity that come long before anything that could reasonably be described as a heart has formed. Those bans prohibit abortion starting at a point before many people know they are pregnant.
The “experiences of pain” part is a mainstay of Republican anti-abortion legislation, often used as an argument for 15-week abortion bans. Except a 15-week fetus does not and cannot feel pain. Here’s what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has to say on the issue: “The science conclusively establishes that a human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after at least 24–25 weeks. Every major medical organization that has examined this issue and peer-reviewed studies on the matter have consistently reached the conclusion that abortion before this point does not result in the perception of pain in a fetus.” The 24 to 25 weeks at which the capacity to feel pain develops, by the way, is also right around the viability threshold that was a critical part of the rights guaranteed under Roe v. Wade.
The RNC probably thinks that part one of the plan—tell lies about Democrats being the real extremists on abortion—will overwhelm part two of the plan—pass more of the kind of laws that voters rose up against last year. But the losses of hardcore anti-abortion politicians like Arizona Senate nominee Blake Masters, Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, and Michigan gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon suggest that “go harder on abortion” may not be the key to success in battleground states.
If Republicans want to try that, though, please proceed. Anti-abortion bills are not going to get through the U.S. Senate or get President Joe Biden’s signature, but if House Republicans want to pre-write Democratic campaign ads by passing some message bills showing what they would do to ban abortion at the federal level if Republicans got full control of government … great, thanks guys. If Republicans manage to pass more state-level abortion restrictions, real suffering will follow in those states, as has already kicked off in the states that have passed harsh restrictions.
But the low-hanging fruit has already been picked—the states that don’t yet have abortion bans are probably ones where, even if Republicans propose such bills, they may encounter trouble passing them, potentially even from fellow Republicans who look at what happened in 2022 and decide that maybe extreme opposition to abortion is not a winning tactic.
Abortion, and the long-term consequences of banning it, aren't going anywhere as political issues because they're not going anywhere in people’s lives. If Republicans want to keep being loud and proud about which side they’re on, that’s helpful in ensuring that voters know what their votes mean when Election Day rolls around.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.