Abor­tion laws may hurt GOP prospects in 2020

Re­stric­tive bans force Repub­li­cans to con­sider how to sat­isfy their core sup­port­ers with­out alien­at­ing the ma­jor­ity of vot­ers.

The Times-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALAN FRAM

WASH­ING­TON — A flood of laws ban­ning abor­tions in Repub­li­can-run states has handed Democrats a po­lit­i­cal weapon head­ing into next

year’s elec­tions, help­ing them paint the GOP as ex­treme and court cen­trist vot­ers who could de­cide con­gres­sional races in swing states, mem­bers of both par­ties say.

The Alabama law out­law­ing vir­tu­ally all abor­tions, even in cases of rape or in­cest, is the strictest so far. Be­sides an­i­mat­ing Democrats, the law has prompted Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, other Repub­li­can lead­ers and law­mak­ers seek­ing re­elec­tion next year

to dis­tance them­selves from the mea­sure.

Their re­ac­tion un­der­scores that Repub­li­cans have risked over­play­ing their hand with se­vere state laws that they hope will prod the Supreme Court, with its as­cen­dant con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity, to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 de­ci­sion that le­gal­ized abor­tion. It also il­lus­trates the way that those statutes are forc­ing the GOP to strug­gle over how to sat­isfy its core anti-abor­tion sup­port­ers with­out alien­at­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of vot­ers averse to strictly curb­ing abor­tion.

The Alabama law is “a loser for Repub­li­can can­di­dates in Colorado, with­out ques­tion, and in many other swing parts of the coun­try, be­cause it’s ex­treme,” David Fla­herty, a Colorado-based Repub­li­can con­sul­tant who’s worked on con­gres­sional races around the coun­try. “It’s only go­ing to widen the gen­der gap.”

Brian Fitz­patrick, a Van­der­bilt Law School pro­fes­sor and for­mer aide to Sen. John Cornyn, R-texas, said there are many “women, mod­er­ate women who are go­ing to be scared that this right that they thought they had for the last 40-some years is go­ing to be shelved” and they will be mo­ti­vated to vote.

GOP Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Su­san Collins of Maine, both seek­ing re­elec­tion next year, said the Alabama ban goes too far by elim­i­nat­ing ex­cep­tions for preg­nan­cies in­volv­ing rape or in­cest. A 2005 sur­vey by the Guttmacher In­sti­tute, which backs abor­tion rights, found about 1% of women said they had abor­tions be­cause of rape or in­cest.

Democrats see the statutes as a way to weave a broader mes­sage about Repub­li­cans.

“You use it as an ex­am­ple of what they do when they’re unchecked,” said Rep. A. Don­ald Mceachin, D-VA., a leader of the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, House Democrats’ cam­paign or­ga­ni­za­tion. “I think it drives mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans away from their party.”

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial con­tenders are com­pet­ing to lam­bast the Alabama law, which al­lows ex­cep­tions when the mother’s health is en­dan­gered. Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand, D-N.Y., called it an “ex­is­ten­tial threat to the hu­man rights of women,” while for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den said GOP hopes of strik­ing down Roe v. Wade are “per­ni­cious and we have to stop it.”

Cam­paign Face­book and Twit­ter ac­counts of Democrats seek­ing re­elec­tion next year, such as Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Jeanne Sha­heen of New Hamp­shire, are lit­tered with posts at­tack­ing the harsh re­stric­tions. “The peo­ple of Alabama de­serve to be on the #right­side­ofhis­tory — not the side of ex­trem­ists,” Jones tweeted.

Ge­or­gia, Ken­tucky, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi and Ohio have en­acted or neared ap­proval of mea­sures bar­ring abor­tion once there’s a de­tectable fe­tal heart­beat, which can oc­cur in the sixth week of preg­nancy, be­fore a woman may know she is preg­nant. Mis­souri law­mak­ers ap­proved an eight-week ban.

The fed­eral Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion says that of the 638,000 abor­tions it tal­lied in 2015, al­most two-thirds were per­formed within the first eight weeks of preg­nancy. About 1% were per­formed dur­ing or af­ter the 21st week.

Spot­light­ing the per­ilous po­lit­i­cal ter­ri­tory Repub­li­cans are nav­i­gat­ing, an April poll by the non­par­ti­san Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion found that Amer­i­cans sup­port Roe v. Wade by 2-1. A Gallup poll last year found that 57% of adults who de­scribed them­selves “pro-life” none­the­less said abor­tion should be le­gal if the preg­nancy re­sults from rape or in­cest.

The fo­cus on the state mea­sures has also stolen GOP mo­men­tum on abor­tion. Un­til now, con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans had spent much of this year forc­ing Democrats onto the de­fen­sive, goad­ing them into block­ing bills aimed at curb­ing the rare abor­tions per­formed late in preg­nan­cies and mis­lead­ingly ac­cus­ing them of sup­port­ing in­fan­ti­cide.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.