Republicans are starting to regulate to the backlash towards abortion

Republican candidates facing a a stark reality check from Kansas votersare softening their once uncompromising anti-abortion stance as they approach the general election, acknowledging that strict bans are unpopular and that the issue could be a major driving force in the fall campaigns.

In swing states and even in conservative corners of the country, several Republicans have changed their rhetoric on abortion bans to a new emphasis on support for exceptions. Some noticeably stopped discussing the details. Now that the Supreme Court has made what has long been a theoretical argument, fierce battles have begun in Republican-dominated states. reality.

In Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, a staunchly anti-abortion Republican candidate for governor, has recently taken to saying that “the people of Pennsylvania” will “decide what abortion looks like” in the state, not the governor. In Minnesota, Scott Jensen, a family physician, in March. saying that “try to ban abortion” as governor, said in the video announced before the Kansas vote that he supported some exemptions: “If I was unclear before, I want to be clear now.”

Republican Senate and House campaign consultants said Thursday that while they still believe inflation and the economy will draw voters to the GOP, candidates will have to talk about abortion Democratic attacks that the party’s position is extreme. They began advising Republicans to support bans that make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or those that threaten the mother’s life. They instructed the candidates to emphasize the care of women during and after pregnancy.

“If we’re going to outlaw abortion, we have to do some things to reduce the need for abortions and to keep women out of harm’s way,” said Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who won the exemption. for rape and incest in her state’s abortion law as a state representative. Now, she says, Republicans must push to expand access to gynecological and obstetrical care, contraception, including emergency contraception, and even protect women’s right to leave their states and get an abortion without fear of prosecution.

Correspondence alone can’t free the GOP from the news rumble after the Supreme Court decision, including a story about A 10-year-old rape victim who crossed state lines to get an abortion, and the headlines about the women who faced them serious health problems under new, far-reaching restrictions or bans.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday who has avoided talking about abortion latelyousted the Hillsborough County state’s attorney who refused to prosecute people who attempt to perform abortions that it prohibits state’s new 15-week bandrawing angry rebuke from Democrats.

The recalibration for some began before voters in deeply Republican Kansas voted Tuesday against removing abortion rights from the state constitution. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, removing the constitutional right to due process, many Republicans have been slow to detail what comes next. In their rush to pass long-promised legislation, Republican-led lawmakers have learned how difficult it is to outlaw abortion.

“The pro-life movement was taken aback by the Supreme Court,” said Brandon Steele, a West Virginia delegate who pushed for a blanket ban on abortion in a special session of the legislature that ended the process. a week in which the Republican majority was constrained. “With no speeches, no indication of what to do, lawmakers had to start saying what they were actually going to do.” You could see the confusion in the room.

“We’ve found out what’s really pro-life and what’s pro-life, just to get elected not only in West Virginia, but across the country,” Mr. Steele said.

In Indiana, a special session of the state legislature that was considering a near-total abortion ban sparked fierce debate over whether to include exceptions and how far those exceptions should apply.

“For some it’s very black and white: if you’re pro-life with no exceptions or if you’re pro-choice without any restrictions,” said state Sen. Kyle Walker, Republican of Indiana, who has said abortion should be legal at least for the time being. first trimester of pregnancy. “When you’re in the gray zone, you’re forced to mentally accept where your own limits are.”

For months, Republicans have argued that abortion rights will be a footnote in a midterm campaign fueled by the highest inflation in 40 years, crime, immigration and a Democratic president whose approval ratings hover around 40 percent.

That’s still the public line, even after the Kansas referendum, when voters faced a single issue rather than the many factors they’ll weigh in November.

But the reality on the campaign trail is different. Sarah Longwell, a Republican pollster, has said in her focus groups that swing voters, when asked what issues they care about, bring up inflation and the economy. But when it comes to discussing abortion, real passion is ignited. It shows that if Democrats can prosecute the campaign to keep the issue front and center, they will find an audience, she said.

Ms. Mace agreed, saying abortion is on the rise and Republicans need to respond.

In Minnesota, Dr. Jensen, the Republican candidate expected to take on Gov. Tim Walz, suggested that after the collapse of Roe, he was prompted to clarify his views by communicating with voters. position on abortion.

“When Roe v. Wade was overturned, we told Minnesota and we basically told everybody that we were going to engage in the conversation,” he said. “During that conversation, I learned that I had to elaborate on my position.

These improvements included a family and maternity leave program, a $2,500 per child adoption tax credit, and improved access to birth control, including over-the-counter oral contraceptives with a price cap. And how Adam LaxaltGOP Senate candidate in Nevada, Dr. Jensen said abortion protection already in Minnesota to resolve this issue, not this year.

Mr. Walz said he would remain offended and would not accept any softening of the Republican line.

“I take them at word,” he said of Dr. Jensen and his friend Matt Birk, a former NFL player and anti-abortion rights activist. “If they get the chance, they will make it a crime while we try to protect it.” So obviously that became a major theme, I think that flipping them was in response to that.

The Kansas vote means roughly 65 percent of voters nationwide would reject repealing abortion rights, including majorities in more than 40 of the 50 states. New York Times analysis.

Republicans believe their party can take on the mantle of moderate Democrats, in part by conveying empathy for pregnant women and offering exemptions to abortion bans, while labeling Democrats as extremists when it comes to regulating abortion. If Democrats insist on making abortion a central focus of their campaigns, they say they risk being out of touch with voters in an uncertain economy.

But moderate Republicans still have to contend with a core base of support that remains staunchly anti-abortion. Abortion opponents said Thursday that Republican candidates should not read too much into the Kansas vote, a single-issue referendum whose language voters on both sides criticized as confusing.

“Regardless of what the consulting class tells the candidates, they would be wise to recognize that the right-to-life community is an important constituency and an important demographic,” warned Penny Nance, CEO and President of Concerned Women. America, a conservative organization that opposes abortion rights.

After the Kansas vote, Democrats stepped up efforts to wedge their opponents between a conservative base that wants quick action to ban all abortions and a broader electorate that wants no such thing. Representative Elaine Luria, a moderate Democrat running in a Republican-leaning district in southeastern Virginia, released a new ad against her Republican opponent, Jen Kiggans, painting her as “too extreme” on abortion. Ms. Luria initially said she would campaign for her job in the district and in support of the Navy, which is a major force in the region, but the landscape has changed. Ms Kiggans campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

A group affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association is already promoting abortion-related remarks. Tudor Dixon in Michigan, which won the Republican nomination for governor this week.

“If you take Tudor Dixon at her word when it comes to abortion bans, she has told us exactly who she is. place, titled “No Exceptions,” features clips of Ms. Dixon highlighting her opposition to various abortion-related exceptions. Ms Dixon has been unequivocal about her position this summer, write on Twitter“My only exception is to protect the mother’s LIFE.

In a lengthy statement outlining her opposition to an expected vote in Michigan In a bid to protect abortion rights, Ms Dixon also insisted her race would be defined by jobs, schools, crime and “being able to afford gas and groceries”.

For Republicans, one problem could be a big issue they left behind during the primary season.

In May, Mr. Mastriano was unequivocal in Pennsylvania when he supported Republican primary voters: “That baby deserves the right to life, whether it was conceived in incest or rape or there are other concerns for the mother.”

Last month, he said it was not up to him. “Exceptions are up to you. You decide how early. And it’s in the hands of the people,” he said on Philadelphia talk radio. “That’s a fact. This is not evasion.”

Mitch Smith, Travel Gabriele and Reid J. Epstein contributed to reporting.

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