If there was a theme for the week, this would be it. In the wake of abortion rights’ massive election wins, Republicans are clearly panicked—but don’t seem to fully grasp the gravity of the situation. Somehow, even in the face of getting absolutely creamed, the GOP seems to believe that the way out of their post-Roe mess is to double down on the strategies that have already proven failures.
Take RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, for example, who said on “Meet the Press” last weekend that Republicans can win on a message of ‘consensus’ and ‘reasonable limitations’. (This tactic lost Republicans the Virginia legislature.) Or Karl Rove writing in the Wall Street Journal that the importance of abortion in the election was “vastly overstated.” To use my favorite Gen Z term, they’re delulu. Or maybe it’s denial? Either way, it’s good news for us.
What I’ll really be curious about, though, is whether or not Republicans candidates, strategists and leaders continue to listen to the folks at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, whose multimillion dollar advice keeps losing them election.
Attacks on Democracy
If Republicans have a post-election tactic even worse than denial, it’s definitely this one. Ohio Republicans don’t seem to understand that trying to fuck over voters who are already really pissed off is not at all helpful! Since Issue 1 passed, enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution, the Ohio GOP has been on a mission to do anything they can to stop the amendment from taking effect.
We saw Republican lawmakers claim that the outcome was a result of “foreign” election interference, and tell Ohioans they were considering “removing jurisdiction from the judiciary over this ambiguous ballot initiative.” When constituents were understandably furious, one of those lawmakers, Rep. Jennifer Gross, held a town hall where she asked attendees if they voted “to rip babies’ arms off.”
Other, supposedly more ‘moderate’ Republicans, say they want to come to a compromise. Senate President Matt Huffman, for example, floated the idea of passing a 15-week ban: “People mentioned the 15 weeks and the exceptions and things like that.” But that’s not what Ohioans voted for—they voted for the end of government interference in their bodies and healthcare. Anything less isn’t a ‘compromise’, it’s totalitarianism.
As New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie put it, “There is no awareness here that the people of Ohio are sovereign and that their vote to amend the state Constitution holds greater authority than the judgment of a small group of legislators.”
We watched that same disregard for the will of the people play out in multiple states this week: In Florida, for example, Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody petitioned the state Supreme Court to stop a pro-choice ballot measure from moving forward. (Moody claims the ‘viability’ standard in the amendment deliberately misleads voters.) And in Missouri, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is still trying to impose a biased ballot summary on the abortion rights amendment could be in front of voters in 2024. Ashcroft, who is also running for governor, is appealing to the state Supreme Court to push through the incendiary summary, which claims the amendment would allow for “dangerous, unregulated, and unrestricted abortions, from conception to live birth, without requiring a medical license or potentially being subject to medical malpractice.”
There’s no doubt that some Republican attempts to subvert the will of voters will be successful. We saw how that ridiculous ballot summary was allowed to stand in Ohio, for example. But I really do believe the long term impact on the GOP will be stark: No matter how voters may feel about abortion, they want to be the ones who have a say—and they certainly don’t want politicians to strip that right from them. We’re even seeing people in states without citizen-led ballot initiatives ask why they can’t vote directly on abortion. As I wrote earlier in the week, the backlash to Republican attacks on abortion rights might just end up having an incredible impact on democracy more broadly:
Also in Ohio this week, Planned Parenthood is planning to expand in the state now that Issue 1 has passed. CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Erica Wilson-Domer, said that they’re hoping the new amendment will make it easier to recruit and retain OBGYNs and “providers that want to come to Ohio knowing that reproductive rights have been enshrined in the constitution here.” They’re also strategizing on how to handle an influx of patients from anti-choice states that border Ohio: Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.
One of the wackier bits of state news this week came from Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who went on a local radio show to claim that the religious freedom challenge to the state’s abortion ban is being led by Satanists. In fact, the suit was brought by Christian, Jewish and Unitarian Universalist leaders. There’s a reason why Bailey wants Missourians to believe the challenge against the state’s abortion ban is a battle between 'good and evil’: He’s preemptively messaging, knowing that a pro-choice ballot measure will likely be in front of voters in 2024. (Bailey is the AG who had to be forced to allow the measure to move forward by the state Supreme Court, and who has spent months trying to quash the amendment.)
This past week in Nebraska, a coalition of pro-choice organizations kicked off their ballot measure initiative in the state. Protect Our Rights is proposing an amendment that would protect abortion rights until fetal ‘viability’—a move to preempt conservative criticism that pro-choicers support abortion ‘up until birth’. You all know how I feel about ‘viability’ standards, but in case you need a refresher you can read me here, here and in this April column.
What’s interesting about the conservative response to the measure is that anti-choice groups are already attacking the amendment using ‘parental rights’ talking points—which was an unsuccessful tactic in Ohio. I’m curious to see if they come up with anything else.
In Iowa this week, the state Board of Medicine met to consider guidance for doctors on a 6-week abortion ban. The law is currently blocked, but the board still needs to create regulations for physicians should the ban—which has rape and incest ‘exceptions’—be enforced. It’s a nightmare beginning to end: For example, the state wants doctors to interrogate rape victims in order to make a “good-faith assessment that the woman is being truthful.” In a letter to the editor at the Des Moines Register, dozens of OBGYNs and other Iowa doctors write that the guidance would “jeopardize the physician-patient relationship by demanding horrifying details.”
Doctors who don’t accurately asses if their patients are rape victims could face revocation of their medical license or fines up to $10,000. As I pointed out a few days ago, this is why you can’t find a single doctor to give a rape victim an abortion in a place like Mississippi. The risks are far too great. That’s one of the many reasons that abortion ban ‘exceptions’ aren’t real.
Speaking of fake exceptions, Kentucky lawmakers say they’re open to adding exemptions to the state’s abortion ban for victims of rape and incest. This comes after the re-election of Gov. Andy Beshear, who ran a campaign focused on abortion rights—specifically, Kentucky’s lack of exceptions. Also in Kentucky, the Courier Journal looked at Beshear’s possible national ambitions, and Slate wrote about what other red state Democrats can learn from the governor.
Finally, seven more Texas women who were denied abortions joined the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) lawsuit against the state and its abortion ban. CRR outlines their stories here—they’re experiences that have become distressingly familiar: severe fetal abnormalities, fatal diagnoses, and dangerous pregnancies where a patients water breaks way too early.
All of the stories are heartbreaking, but I wanted to flag something that happened to plaintiff Kimberly Manzano, who was 10 weeks pregnant when she found out that her fetus’ organs were growing outside of the body. Manzano had to travel to New Mexico for an abortion, and The Texas Tribune reported this detail that we’ve seen in other cases recently: her doctor refused to send her medical records to the clinic. Just cruelty on top of cruelties.
If you need a refresher on the lawsuit: CRR isn’t trying to overturn Texas’ ban, but to ensure that those with complicated and dangerous pregnancies can get care. In August, CRR and the women they represent won, and a judge issued a temporary block that allowed doctors to provide abortions in complicated pregnancies. But the state Attorney General appealed, which put the judge’s ruling on hold.
More state news this week:
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Republican’s Word of the Week
You know I love tracking anti-abortion talking points, and we definitely got a new one in the wake of the election: ‘compassion.’ In the same way they got rid of ‘ban’ and are focusing on ‘consensus’, ‘reasonable’, and ‘compromise’, ‘compassion’ is meant to make Americans believe that Republicans aren’t misogynist extremists. It’s a tall order when voters are reading horror story after horror story of women being denied vital healthcare, but the GOP is trying it out anyway.
These quotes are just from the last week: RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said, “We have to talk compassionately. We can’t attack women.” Republican strategist Alyssa Farah Griffin said, “Let’s talk about it with nuance, with compassion…we need to have judgment-free from how we talk about it.” Former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson said 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.”
Honestly, the hypocrisy is fucking astounding. This might be the kind of messaging that pisses me off the most: feigning giving a shit.
In addition to terms like ‘compassion’, I suspect that in the coming months we’ll see more co-opting of feminist rhetoric. Just as Republicans call their anti-abortion restrictions ‘women’s right to know’ mandates, and claim travel bans are ‘anti-trafficking’ laws—there will be a sharp increase in legislators and anti-abortion activists talking about protecting women. It’s vital that we point out how that kind of language isn’t just untrue, but downright insulting.
Stats & Studies
New polling from Data for Progress found that a majority of voters—even most Republicans—oppose Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s block on military promotions in ‘protest’ of the Pentagon’s abortion policy.
And this was interesting: The Washington Post reported when it came to pro-choice ads leading up to the election, personal stories about abortion juxtaposed with Republicans’ anti-abortion extremism were the ones that made the biggest impact. That’s why groups like We Testify, which focuses on abortion storytelling, are so important.
Law Dork gave us some insight on what’s going on in the mifepristone case after three Republican Attorneys General in Missouri, Kansas, and Idaho filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit. Grace covered how a government shutdown was avoided, despite Republican attempts to push anti-abortion language in multiple spending bills. And the Biden Administration announced the first-ever White House initiative on women’s health research, yet neglected to even mention abortion. What’s more, on a press call about the initiative, administration officials pivoted when asked directly about abortion. Sigh.
Finally, if you missed my column predicting Donald Trump’s next move on abortion, you can read it below. One of the rare cases where I really, really hope I’m wrong: