The public conversation about abortion starts with a premise that’s as simple as it is important: This health care issue is about people, not politics. To be sure, it’s a multifaceted discussion, but what matters most are the real-world consequences for real-world people, many of whom are being forced to endure horrific hardships in the wake of the demise of Roe v. Wade.
Too many Republican officials continue to struggle with this basic truth.
In fact, for many in the GOP, there’s an assumption that public outrage in response to attacks on reproductive rights and services is some kind of passing fad. As he moves forward with his presidential campaign, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told NBC News last week, for example, that abortion is “going to have a political impact, but it’ll settle as time goes on.” He added, “So I don’t see [abortion] as an issue that’s going to hurt us long term.”
As we’ve discussed, Republicans keep pushing this line. 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, but 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.”
We know from recent election results that those assumptions were wrong, but that’s not the only evidence. NBC News reported over the weekend on the results of its latest national poll, which included some data that Republican officials need to see.
Finally, the national NBC News poll shows nearly 6 in 10 adults — 58% — saying abortion should be legal, either always (38%) or most of the time (20%). By contrast, a combined 38% believe abortion should be illegal, either with exceptions (32%) or without exceptions (6%).
That gap is important, but so too was the fact that the poll asked respondents to rate the importance of abortion as an issue on a scale of 1 to 10. A combined 61% of Americans gave it an 8 or higher. A 43% plurality ranked it as a 10.
This does not appear to be an issue that’s likely to “settle as time goes on.”
And yet, many Republicans keep expressing complete indifference — to election results, to public opinion polling, and to the health care implications for the public. The more Americans tell GOP policymakers to stop imposing these restrictions, the more powerful Republicans ignore the pleas.
Just this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban into law; Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed a measure explicitly restricting some out-of-state travel for abortions; and Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird thought it’d be a good idea to pause its practice of paying for emergency contraception for victims of sexual assault.
The message from the public couldn’t be much clearer. Too many Republicans simply aren’t listening.