The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Republicans are doubling down on abortion. They’ll regret it.

People protest a lawsuit to ban the abortion drug mifepristone at the Potter County Courthouse in Amarillo, Tex., on Feb. 11. (Justin Rex/AP)
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Republicans’ extreme antiabortion stance cost them dearly in the midterms, especially among women, young people and college-educated voters. But rather than adjust course, they are doubling down. Like the American tourist who thinks if he yells loud enough, non-English speakers will finally understand him, they have decided to be more aggressive in trying to block abortion access.

House Republicans have already passed two antiabortion measures (which have no chance of passing the Senate). They have also filed other bills seeking to limit access to abortion. Likewise, Senate Republicans are pushing an array of antiabortion measures, including restrictions on interstate travel for the procedure and bans on federal funding for colleges that supply abortion medication.

Meanwhile, a forced-birth group in Texas is suing to reverse the Food and Drug Administration’s decades-old authorization of mifepristone, which is one of two drugs used for medical abortions (and is also critical for the treatment of miscarriages). Twenty-two red states have filed amicus briefs expressing support for the effort to deprive women of safe, effective medication. And in Congress, Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona filed a bill to do the same.

At the state level, Republicans have introduced a trove of antiabortion legislation. Some seek to ban certain types of abortion procedures or disallow them for certain reasons (e.g., genetic abnormality) while others would impose criminal penalties against doctors. Some attempt to regulate what doctors can and cannot say to patients. And some try to regulate abortion clinics out of business. The amount of time and energy devoted to stripping women of the power to make decisions about their own lives is stunning.

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Then there are the potential GOP presidential candidates who keep pushing for national abortion bans. Former vice president Mike Pence, for example, declared last year that “we must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is under fire from forced-birth proponents for supporting “only” a 15-week ban.

If anything, then, Republicans’ onslaught against women’s autonomy over their bodies has accelerated after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. And public opinion polls suggest they will regret it.

A recent Gallup survey shows that Americans are increasingly frustrated with U.S. abortion policy. “The record-high 69% of U.S. adults dissatisfied with abortion laws includes 46% who prefer that these laws be made less strict, marking a 16-percentage-point jump in this sentiment since January 2022,” the poll reports. “In addition, 15% of Americans are dissatisfied and favor stricter laws, and 8% are dissatisfied but want them to stay the same.”

Likewise, an NPR-Ipsos poll in January found that 3 out of 5 Americans want abortion legal in all or most cases. The overwhelming sentiment is that government should “butt out,” as one respondent told the pollsters. NPR reports:

Fifty-eight percent of respondents say they think lawmakers are making abortion policy based on what donors and their base want, not what the majority of the public wants.
They also voiced this disconnect when evaluating federal officials making calls about abortion rights.
An even larger number, 62% of respondents, say the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was based “more on politics than the law.” Sixty percent of respondents say that they thought the Roe decision was correctly decided in 1973.

Of course, abortion is not Republicans’ only political liability. The general aura of craziness within the party’s MAGA wing also played a role in their election defeats. Yet Republicans are doubling down on this as well, holding nonsensical hearings about made-up scandals and the “weaponization” of the federal government. Polls have consistently showed that voters are opposed to spending time on this. And no surprise, the hearings were widely regarded as duds.

Did Republicans pay any attention to the messages that voters sent them last November? It certainly doesn’t seem so. But Democrats sure did. Expect them to remind voters in 2024 about Republicans’ utter disdain for their constituents’ views.