'Turn back to God and repent': Anti-abortion Republicans are devouring one another
When the U.S. Supreme Court’s radical-right majority decided to overturn Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Justice Samuel Alito attacked Roe as a divisive decision that turned Americans against one another — implying that overturning Roe would reduce the divisiveness. But the overturning of Roe on June 24 has been followed by one angry debate after another, and not only between anti-abortion Republicans and pro-choice Democrats. GOP abortion opponents, according to Politico reporters Megan Messerly and Alice Miranda Ollstein, have been angrily “turning on one another.”
Messerly and Ollstein, in an article published on August 9, point to Indiana as a prime example of bitter infighting among anti-abortion Republicans. Indiana, on August 6, became the first state in the U.S. to pass a new abortion ban — a ban that came three days after a bombshell vote in deep red Kansas, where 59 percent of voters rejected a ballot measure that would have removed abortion protection from the state constitution. Undeterred by the Kansas vote earlier in the week, Republican Indiana lawmakers moved ahead with their anti-abortion vote in the state legislature.
But Indiana’s anti-abortion Republicans are not one big happy family. Messerly and Ollstein stress that Republicans in the Indiana State Legislature have fought bitterly over how far the state’s abortion ban should go. The bill bans abortion statewide with a few exceptions, including rape and incest. But some Republicans are angry that those exceptions are included in the bill.
When the bill was being debated in the Indiana State Legislature, Indiana State Rep. John Jacob, a far-right Republican and Christian nationalist, complained, “This bill is just another bill that regulates abortion, which is baby murder — that it says if you do this, if you fulfill this requirement, you can still murder your baby. There is still time to turn back to God before it’s too late and repent, and I will still pray for repentance for this chamber.”
Republican “infighting on abortion,” according to Messerly and Ollstein, “could prove volatile for the party heading into a November election when the political winds are supposed to be at their back.”
“In addition to hammering Democrats on inflation and the economy,” Messerly and Ollstein report, “many Republicans — especially in state legislatures — are turning on one another. It’s created a grueling situation for governors trying to bridge the divide between more moderate and conservative members of their party while demonstrating to voters they’re willing to act on abortion.”
Former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, who led the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), fears that GOP infighting over abortion could hurt Republicans in the 2022 midterms.
Davis told Politico, “What Republicans need to be concerned about is: What is their branding going to be? Not just on this — we’ve already seen an erosion in the suburbs on cultural issues that have helped the Democrats. That’s the problem: When people get emboldened.… it takes rational discussion off the table. That’s where we are.”
Messerly and Ollstein cite some other examples of how contentious the abortion debates have become among Republicans at the state level.
“The vitriol has left some Republican legislators reeling, forced to defend their anti-abortion bona fides to constituents and friends,” the Politico reporters observe. “In South Carolina, a Republican lawmaker promised to ‘call names in public’ if any of his colleagues tried to ‘water.… down’ the state’s proposed abortion ban with exceptions. And in West Virginia, a Republican lawmaker took to the Senate floor to eviscerate his colleagues’ bill to ban almost all abortions because it removed criminal penalties for doctors who perform the procedure and didn’t include strong enough reporting requirements for cases of rape and incest.”
In South Carolina, anti-abortion State Rep. Micah Caskey is frustrated that fellow Republicans are attacking him for not being anti-abortion enough.
Caskey told Politico, “I view all of this with frustration and contempt for the crayon-level discussion of our public discourse on this issue. I’m told that a year ago, I was a crazy fanatic for supporting a six-week ban — and now, the goal post has been moved such that if I don’t support a complete and total ban whatsoever, that I’m not pro-life?”
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