The anti-abortion stance that united Republicans for the last 50 years is threatening to unravel as internal clashes over state abortion laws threaten to derail the party's chances in 2024.
The Supreme Court's reversal of the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, which established a federal right to abortion, has returned the question to the states to decide. The Washington Examiner reports veteran Republican strategists are anxious that the varied approach GOP-led states are taking could lead to perilous infighting.
Some red states have decided on a 15-week cutoff point for abortion, with exceptions for rape and incest, while others have banned the controversial procedure from conception, with exceptions only if the mother's life is at risk.
With some Republican state lawmakers considering burdensome regulations to keep women seeking abortions from crossing state lines to get them, GOP operatives say Democrats could potentially use the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision against a GOP presidential candidate in 2024.
"A presidential contest is an entirely different kettle of fish than a midterm election, where the out-of-power party can simply offer themselves as an alternative to the status quo and let political gravity do the rest," Colin Reed, a Republican strategist, wrote in a column for Fox News published last week.
"On this issue in particular, it’s going to require Republican candidates to avoid sounding like fire-breathing ideologues in the primary to have a chance of competing in purple and suburban parts of America that hold the keys to success in the general," Reed said.
A Republican pollster told the Examiner that the GOP can win a debate on the issue if it is "reasonable restrictions" versus "abortion on demand."
Even on measures banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, Republicans can at least fight "to a draw," the pollster said.
Without exceptions for rape and incest, however, about 30% of voters who self-identify as "pro-life" side with Democrats on abortion, according to the pollster's data.
These voters believe it’s "cruel" to force a victim of rape or incest to carry a child produced as a result of those situations to term.
"The thing that can kill us in 2024 is a purity fight in red states," the Republican strategist told the Examiner.
For a generation, Republicans sought to overturn Roe and promoted the idea that an individual state's abortion measures should be determined by state, not federal, legislation.
As states are coming up with their own proposals four months before the midterm congressional elections, Republican strategists seem certain that the issue of abortion will have little-to-no impact on their party's chances.
GOP insiders told the Examiner that President Joe Biden is too weak politically and Democrats are too damaged by 40-year-high inflation, soaring gas prices and other kitchen-table issues to escape a solid thrashing from fed-up voters at the ballot box in November.
In swing states Arizona and Georgia, conservative consultants are sounding the alarm that strict Oklahoma-style abortion bans could drive key suburban voters, especially women, away and into the Democrats' camp in 2024.
By the time the next presidential campaign begins, the results of GOP abortion bans will be real and not just theoretical.
"It's going to create major infighting in the party that ultimately leads to failed legislation that undermines support at the ballot box," a Republican operative in Georgia predicted. "Key groups — women, soft Republicans, swing voters — will reconsider voting for a Republican ticket."
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