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Abortion, Every Day (11.13.23)
Nearly 1 in 4 white evangelical Christians voted for Ohio's Issue 1
Click to skip ahead in the newsletter: In the States, the latest on Republicans’ attempt to deny the voters in Ohio and Florida. In Messaging & Manipulation, I give you conservatives’ latest term in the anti-abortion messaging war. In the Nation, the Biden administration’s inexplicable decision to avoid the word ‘abortion’. In Election Fallout, Republicans are playing the blame game. I also have a short Mifepristone Lawsuit Update for you. And in You Love to See It, the kind of activism that gives anti-abortion men the exact attention they deserve.
In the States
On Friday, I reported that Republicans in Ohio were seeking to overturn the will of the voters after losing on abortion rights. GOP lawmakers threatened to prevent the courts from allowing Issue 1—which enshrines abortion in the state constitution—to take effect. The lawmakers not only claimed the win was a result of “foreign” election interference, but said that they would “consider removing jurisdiction from the judiciary over this ambiguous ballot initiative.” The Associated Press has more on the blatantly anti-democratic move, which is being led by Republican state Reps. Jennifer Gross, Bill Dean, Melanie Miller and Beth Lear.
House Speaker Jason Stephens has refused to comment, but we already know that he’s looking for ways to block Issue 1. Last week Stephens said, “The legislature has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life,” and that “this is not the end of the conversation.”
Given that the lead-up to the vote in Ohio was chock full of GOP-led attacks on democracy, none of this is necessarily surprising—but it is shocking. Ray Marcano, columnist at The Columbus Dispatch, writes that the move is “the most dictatorial behavior we’ve seen in these parts in a while,” calling it “panic, desperation and arrogance on full display.”
And you know what? They should be panicked. Because it’s not just that Republicans lost, or that they lost badly—it’s about who they lost. Exit polls in Ohio show that more than two thirds of independent or self-identified “moderate” voters supported Issue 1. Polling from CNN also showed that there was a 7 point gender gap in the vote (not surprising), and that nearly 25% of voters who identified as white born-again evangelical Christians supported Issue 1 (very surprising!). That last bit of data gives me tremendous hope: if Republicans can’t even hold onto their base when it comes to abortion, what hope do they have with independents??
Speaking of Republicans trying to keep voters from having a say on abortion: I’ve written before about Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody petitioning the state Supreme Court to stop a pro-choice ballot measure from moving forward. Moody claims the ‘viability’ language in the amendment deliberately misleads voters. (Some background on that argument here.) On Friday, Floridians Protecting Freedom—the group proposing the pro-choice amendment—fired back in a legal brief:
“Nothing about the meaning of the term ‘viability’ in the phrase ‘abortion before viability’ is ambiguous or misleading here: It has a well-understood, commonly accepted meaning amongst the general public that accords with its legal significance.”
You all know how I feel about ‘viability’ standards—they’re arbitrary, and Republicans will claim that we’re pushing for abortion ‘up until birth’ no matter what kind of language we use. So why allow them to frame the debate? And, as we see from what’s happening in Florida, Republicans can use confusion around the term to their advantage. That said, this is just another attack on democracy and voters. We know that Floridians want abortion to be legal, and that they definitely don’t like the recently-passed 6-week abortion ban. (Remember, even the majority of Republicans in the state oppose it.)
No word yet on when the state Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case, but I’ll keep you updated.
“The Democrats, we're the party of freedom. I never thought that Republicans would become a nanny state, telling women to do with their bodies.”
But abortion rights advocates in the state want Democrats to use their new majorities to go even further: pro-choice groups are asking legislators to push for a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights. Under Virginia’s process, the General Assembly would have to pass an amendment in 2025 and 2026, and then the issue would head to voters in the fall of 2026.
In a press conference last week, Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, pointed out that Democrats passed an abortion rights amendment earlier in the year that was killed by Republicans. But now that Democrats have control of the legislature, they wouldn’t have that problem. (For more on other states where we’ll likely see pro-choice ballot measures, check out my analysis from last week.)
Finally, I interviewed Allie Phillips this weekend at The Meteor’s “Meet the Moment” event at Brooklyn Museum. Phillips is the Tennessee mom who was denied an abortion despite having a doomed (and dangerous) pregnancy, and is now running for office. Best of all, Phillips isn’t just running for any old seat: She’s running against the state rep who she spoke to to after her horrific experience—a man who expressed confusion over her story because he thought complications could only happen in a woman’s first pregnancy. (Yes, seriously.)
You can watch the video of our chat here, and support Phillips’ campaign here. Also, thank you to the Abortion, Every Day readers who came out to the event! (I gave a handful of free tickets away to paid subscribers—just another reason to join the AED community!)
Messaging & Manipulation
New talking point alert! In the wake of their election losses, Republicans are desperately trying to find a new way to talk about abortion. They’ve gotten rid of ‘ban’, and are doubling down on words like ‘consensus’, ‘reasonable’, and ‘compromise’—all terms that feign a softening on the issue. In keeping with that trend, the GOP has introduced a new word into the mix: ‘compassion.’
Since last week’s walloping, Republicans have been hammering on ‘compassion’ in interview after interview. When RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel was on “Meet the Press” this weekend, for example, she said, “We have to talk compassionately. We can’t attack women.” And during ABC News’s “This Week,” Republican strategist Alyssa Farah Griffin said, “I think Nikki Haley gave the roadmap, let’s talk about it with nuance, with compassion…we need to have judgment-free from how we talk about it.”
Similarly, former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson said this weekend that when it comes to abortion, the issue “needs to be communicated in terms of compassion.” And Rep. Bob Good of Virginia told The Hill, “we need to address that issue with humility and compassion for mothers who find themselves in difficult situations.”
Republicans can use ‘compassion’ all they want—but so long as Americans keep reading horror story after horror story, the term will ring hollow. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and again, and again): there is no talking point that will make people forget a raped 10 year-old, or a woman going septic.
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In the Nation
Today, the Biden administration announced the first-ever White House initiative on women’s health research, yet didn’t even mention abortion. In fairness, the press release doesn’t cite any specific issues that the initiative will focus on—but during a press call, administration officials pivoted when asked directly about abortion.
The Hill reports that California’s former first lady Maria Shriver was on the call and mentioned “a “stunning lack of information” about menopause. When reporters followed up by asking about abortion research, senior administration officials interjected: “[They] said maternal and reproductive health are essential to women’s health but did not specifically outline abortion access as a key focus of the initiative.”
It’s a strange move, given the abortion rights wins not even a week ago—and the spread of maternal and reproductive health deserts since Roe was overturned. Abortion bans have devastating consequences for millions of patients. If the goal of the project is to improve gaps in research, government and philanthropic investment—and health care outcomes for women across the country—why avoid abortion?
In other news, Republican Speaker Mike Johnson has revealed a plan for a continuing resolution to avoid Friday’s government shutdown. The plan pushes funding expirations until after the holidays, and avoids funding cuts and controversial policy riders (including the anti-abortion ones) for now. The bill will need bipartisan support to pass, as far-right Republicans have already signaled they’re unwilling to support this plan.
The speaker is also planning to bring forward two separate appropriations bills to the floor this week, which, to no surprise, do include anti-abortion riders. Remember, two spending bills were abruptly pulled at the last minute last week by House GOP leadership before coming to a vote on the chamber floor—all because of a lack of Republican support for the anti-abortion provisions. This week’s appropriations bills are looking like they’ll face a similar fate.
The anti-abortion, anti-divorce, anti-LGBTQ activism of the newly elected Speaker’s new wife, Kelly Johnson;
It’s blame game time! Republicans got their asses handed to them last week (which I am still absolutely delighted over), and everyone in the GOP is pointing the finger at someone else. In Virginia, for example, a group of Republicans tried (and failed) to remove House Speaker Todd Gilbert—arguing that he should have stopped Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his PAC from spending so much time, energy and money on his abortion strategy. One of the delegates pushing for Gilbert’s ouster told The Washington Post, “We literally ran on one of the third rails of politics.”
Anti-abortion groups like Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America were convinced that going on offense would win them the Virginia election—so they spent millions on ads that claimed Youngkin’s ban wasn’t a ban, called Democrats the real extremists, and said the 15-week ban was a ‘reasonable compromise’. (We saw how well that turned out!)
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel also tried to shirk blame when she spoke to NBC’s “Meet the Press” this weekend—saying that she “put out a memo” telling Republican candidates that abortion would be a big issue. McDaniel also claimed that she “took [abortion'] more seriously than others because I have suburban mom friends.” LOL.
McDaniel also participated in a little bit of anti-abortion talking-points bingo:
“In a time of consensus, can’t we agree on a reasonable limitations at 15 weeks when a baby feels pain?”
I’ve been writing about terms like ‘consensus’ and ‘reasonable limitations’ for months—and how Republicans believe playing down their extremism will win over voters. Indeed, McDaniel said that “we can win on this message,” even though it’s the exact messaging that lost them Virginia. As the kids say: truly delulu.
Mifepristone Lawsuit Update
Last week, three Republican Attorneys General in Missouri, Kansas, and Idaho filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit seeking to ban mifepristone. The short version? This could cause significant delays, or make it less likely that the Supreme Court will hear the mifepristone case this term. For the clearest overview of the legal strategy and potential outcomes, read fellow Substacker Chris Geidner at Law Dork:
You Love to See It
This brings me so much joy. On November 4th, abortion rights protesters met the Boston anti-abortion “Men’s March” with the exact energy it deserved. The Huntington News, Northeastern University’s student newspaper, reported on a group of over 40 clowns who showed up to accompany the misogynist protesters in their march. They were joined by the Boston Area Brigade of Activist Musicians, or BABAM, who played “Pop Goes the Weasel,” “The Imperial March” and “Entrance of the Gladiators.” Just perfect.