Republicans have no cohesive message on abortion

It has been nearly two years since the groundbreaking Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization left Republicans floundering. The abortion issue has long defined the GOP and cemented its standing as the moral political party. There are other issues of great concern, but from a conservative perspective, abortion tops them all. Given the magnitude of the topic, the Republican Party should have been better prepared for a post-Dobbs world. Instead, there is a lack of unity at the highest levels and continued electoral concerns. 

The end of Roe v. Wade was always a hope but never a goal to realize until President Donald Trump nominated and then saw the appointment of three new Supreme Court justices. The June 2022 victory that righted a legal and moral wrong is still a good thing. But it seems individual Republican voters and the party as a whole expected a different reality after the dust settled.

The ruling did not ban abortion in the United States, nor did it change the culture overnight to become more life-affirming. The GOP should still aim for those goals, but right now, there’s a glaring lack of unification. Worst of all, the passion once held by Republicans has now been captured by the Democrats. 

It does not help that Trump, the leader of the Republican Party, lacks principle on the issue. It’s anyone’s guess where he’ll finally land on a multitude of topics, abortion included. He is hailed as bringing about the end to Roe one moment, and the next, he’s upset at Gov. Ron DeSantis putting federalism into practice by signing a 6-week abortion ban into law. 

Concerning the abortion referendum, Floridians will vote on in November, “It’s clear Trump opposes both options facing Florida: He has called the DeSantis-backed six-week ban a ‘terrible mistake,’ but on Monday he also blasted abortions that happen late in a pregnancy as being ‘radical,’” Politico reports.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) opposes the federalist approach to abortion championed, at least in part, by Trump. Instead, Graham favors a national 15-week ban.

Trump disagrees with him and stated on Truth Social: “Senator Lindsey Graham is doing a great disservice to the Republican Party…now he’s up to 15 weeks, where you’re allowed Abortion, but what he doesn’t understand, or perhaps he does, is the Radical Left Democrats, who are destroying our Country, will never approve anything that he or the Republicans want.”

In Arizona, the state Supreme Court’s latest decision essentially bans all abortions with very limited exceptions. More than one Republican opposes the measure. Trump is vocal about the fact that he thinks the ban in Arizona is too extreme while also saying of Dobbs, “It was an incredible thing, incredible achievement. We did that. And now the states have it. And the states are putting out what they want.” 

Republicans are all over the board on the issue that defines them. There is uncertainty on how to proceed both to protect life and win at the ballot box. And time is ticking. 

The end of Roe represents a monumental achievement. But there was a false sense of security in the quest to see it overturned. It was treated as the finish line when in almost every way, it was the starting point. Now, state legislatures and voters need convincing.

President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party machine are telling voters that the GOP doesn’t care about women. While that’s always been the message, this time, the intensity with which abortion proponents preach it is higher than ever. And the last two election cycles prove their message is powerful. 

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The GOP’s shock at the post-Dobbs reality is palpable. But it must shake off the delusion that an America without Roe is more receptive to the pro-life message. The GOP leadership is disorganized and publicly at odds with one another. This makes it difficult to convince voters. 

A Republican Party weakness is the inability to think long-term. Two years on from Dobbs it’s as apparent as ever that there was little to no strategy beyond convincing a handful of justices. Convincing voters, on both sides of the aisle, is another story entirely.  

Kimberly Ross (@SouthernKeeks) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog and a columnist at Arc Digital.

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