How GOP candidates are 'feeling the pressure' navigating abortion in the post-Roe era: conservative

How GOP candidates are 'feeling the pressure' navigating abortion in the post-Roe era: conservative
Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon in 2022 (image via screengrab).

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, far-right Republicans in red states wasted no time pushing for abortion bans. But in swing states, countless Democratic candidates have been aggressively campaigning on abortion rights — and using the issue to tar and feather their GOP opponents. It isn’t uncommon for Democrats, during the 2022 midterms, to run scathing attack ads pointing out that a Republican candidate opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

In a listicle published by the conservative website The Bulwark on August 30, journalist Jim Swift lays out three ways in which GOP midterm candidates are handling the abortion issue in a post-Roe political environment. And they include: (1) “The Blake Masters Path: De-emphasize abortion,” (2) “The Tudor Dixon Path: Full steam ahead, no exceptions,” and (3) “The ‘I get it, now’ path.”

In Arizona’s 2022 U.S. Senate race, the Republican nominee is Blake Masters — a far-right MAGA conspiracy theorist who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump and is up against centrist incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Masters, in the past, was a strident opponent of abortion. But as Swift emphasizes, Masters is now avoiding the abortion issue as much as possible.

READ MORE: How Roe's reversal has supercharged abortion rights activists: conservative

It isn’t hard to understand why Masters is taking this approach; he obviously believes that the abortion issue helps Kelly.

In deep-red Kansas, 59 percent of voters recently voted against an anti-abortion ballot measure — and if there are that many pro-choice voters in a state as red as Kansas, being anti-abortion may not prove beneficial for Masters in a swing state like Arizona. Trump won Kansas by 15 percent, but he narrowly lost Arizona to now-President Joe Biden. Moreover, Arizona's two U.S. senators, Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, are both pro-choice Democrats.

Swift observes, “While he was running for the GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona, Blake Masters had on his website a pledge to support a federal personhood law or constitutional amendment. That pledge has been deleted…. Masters isn’t alone among GOP contenders in quieting down his abortion stance after winning the nomination. Even Doug Mastriano has stayed mum since winning his primary.”

Pennsylvania State Sen. Mastriano, a far-right Christian nationalist and conspiracy theorist, is the Republican gubernatorial nominee in that state whose views are further to the right than those of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. But as Swift points out, Mastriano has recently been downplaying his severe anti-abortion views — as he obviously realizes that the abortion issue benefits his Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

READ MORE: Even if Griswold stands, states are likely to ban contraception

But in Michigan, Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon — who is up against Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — is doubling down on her opposition to abortion, even for rape victims. Whitmer, meanwhile, is vowing to aggressively fight for abortion rights if she is reelected.

“Another possibility is to keep strongly supporting limitations on abortion, often without any exceptions for cases of rape and incest, or the health of the mother,” Swift explains. “It’s easier for people who aren’t running in statewide elections, but rather, for safe, red seats to hold this more extreme position. Still, some people running for statewide office, like Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, just keep on truckin’ through the gaffes.”

During a recent interview, Dixon doubled down on her opposition to abortion even for a 14-year-old rape victim — saying, “I’ve talked to those people who were the child of a rape victim…. there was healing through that baby…. And those voices, the babies of rape victims that have come forward, are very powerful when you hear their story and what the truth is behind that. It’s very hard to not stand up for those people.”

Swift cites South Carolina State Rep. Neal Collins as an example of a Republican who is taking the “I get it now” approach to abortion. Collins was an outspoken abortion opponent in the past but is now speaking out against anti-abortion laws that are so extreme that they forbid abortion even when a pregnant woman’s life is in danger.

“Some Republicans are belatedly realizing the unintended consequences of abortion restrictions in some states,” Swift observes. “This doesn’t mean they’ll be switching sides and winning endorsements from Planned Parenthood or Emily’s List, but it does suggest that at least some Republicans are feeling the pressure to adjust to the new political realities. In a now-viral video, Neal Collins, a Republican state representative in South Carolina, expressed regret for supporting the fetal heartbeat law enacted by the state last year. Collins said that one of his constituents, a doctor, told him about how it is impacting women. Until that call, Rep. Collins apparently never considered the effect of his vote — probably because, before Dobbs, these sorts of exercises were less about legislating and more often about trying to keep the base happy or get a case before the High Court.”

READ MORE: 'I did not sleep': GOP lawmaker vividly describes the horror inflicted by an abortion bill he voted for

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