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On abortion rights, GOP isn't listening to what voters keep saying

Republicans keep assuming that voters don't much care about abortion rights. The electorate keeps telling the GOP otherwise.


Nearly a year ago, as Republican-appointed U.S. Supreme Court justices prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats were confident that the ruling would spark a backlash from voters. GOP officials heard the predictions — and scoffed.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told NPR that he expected voters’ interests to lie elsewhere. A day earlier, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said something similar, telling The Wall Street Journal, “I just don’t think this is going to be the big political issue everybody thinks it is.”

Those assumptions were discredited soon after. Republicans should’ve received a wake-up call in early August, when Kansas voters easily rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would’ve led to abortion restrictions. The GOP received another reminder a few weeks later, when the party assumed it would win a congressional special election in a competitive New York district, right before a Democrat running on an abortion-rights platform scored an upset.

Soon after, Republicans struggled mightily in the 2022 midterm elections, and exit polling suggests the party’s opposition to reproductive rights had a lot to do with the results.

This week, as Politico noted, the GOP suffered yet another major setback as voters sent an unmistakable message that the party still refuses to hear.

The drubbing Republicans took in Wisconsin this week revealed how harmful the issue of abortion still is to the party — and will likely remain through 2024. But following a state Supreme Court race that largely turned into a wholesale rebuke of GOP efforts to restrict abortion rights, Republicans in states across the country are plowing ahead with new restrictions anyway.

This isn’t a situation in which Republicans and their allies are simply unaware of political realities. They can read the same election results and polling data as everyone else. The GOP fully understands that most Americans simply don’t want Republican policymakers imposing new restrictions on reproductive rights.

But the party is determined to keep doing it anyway. From the Politico article:

Hours after the vote in Wisconsin, Idaho’s Republican governor, Brad Little signed legislation prohibiting traveling with a minor out of state for an abortion without parental consent. That same day, a Democratic lawmaker in North Carolina announced she was switching parties, giving Republicans a veto-proof majority and raising the prospect of further abortion restrictions in the state. And then there’s Florida, where the legislature is soon expected to send a six-week abortion ban to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, one of the most Republican-friendly places in national print media, wrote after this week’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race, The Wisconsin results show abortion is still politically potent. ... Republicans had better get their abortion position straight, and more in line with where voters are or they will face another disappointment in 2024.”

That’s good advice that much of the party is prepared to completely ignore.