Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus addresses an audience at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, July 31, 2014, in Boston, Mass.
Photo by Steven Senne/AP

RNC head Reince Priebus downplays abortion in 2014 election


Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday dismissed questions regarding a devastating federal appeals court decision last week that will close all but eight abortion clinics in Texas, saying abortion wouldn’t be a critical issue in the midterm elections. 

Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” opened the conversation on the Texas abortion law that was upheld Thursday saying, “One of the things about the Republican party is you don’t like a lot of regulation on businesses, except if the business is a abortion clinic.” 

Among other things, the Texas law requites doctors working in abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The law also requires clinics to be designed and equipped as ambulatory surgical facilities. Most clinics in Texas have been unable to meet those requirements, which the medical community has called unnecessary. 

“Eighty percent of these abortion clinics in Texas are going to be basically out of business because of this new law. Too much regulation, is that fair? Why regulate on the abortion issue now? … Why resist a business now in Texas?” Todd asked. 

Priebus said his party believes that women faced with an unplanned pregnancy “deserve compassion, respect, counseling, whatever it is that we can offer.” Todd replied, “But 80% of those abortion clinics are gone. so they have to drive 2-or 300 miles for that compassion?”

Priebus attempted to defend the ruling, saying the law was simply about taxpayers’ money.

“The issue for us is only one thing. And that’s whether you ought to use taxpayer money to fund abortion,” he stated. “That’s the one issue that I think separates this conversation that we’re having.”

Priebus then tried to avoid the topic altogether, saying that the midterm election isn’t going to come down to reproductive choice.

“You can try to steer and talk about abortion again, but the fact of the matter is, if you’re in Skagway, Alaska you’re thinking about why the fact my life isn’t better off today than it was when this senator was elected six years ago,” Priebus said.

Still, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling affects a significant number of women – especially younger, single female voters the Republican party has been attempting to heavily woo in this election cycle.

When the court Thursday allowed Texas to begin enforcing tough new abortion restrictions, it meant that more than 900,000 – one out of six Texan women – are living more than 150 miles from a clinic in the nation’s second most populous state.

Texas state senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis shot to national prominence in June 2013 when she stood for nearly 12 hours on the Senate floor to filibuster the bill that shut down multiple abortion clinics across Texas. It was eventually passed and signed into law be Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
After last week’s ruling, Davis describing the ruling at “tragic,” tweeting “The 5th circuit court’s outrageous #HB2 decision leaves only one recourse: action at the ballot box.”

Abortion and Reince Priebus

RNC head Reince Priebus downplays abortion in 2014 election