After Dobbs, Republicans Wrestle with What It Means to Be Anti-Abortion
For decades, opposition to abortion was a crucial but relatively clear-cut litmus test for Republican candidates: support overturning a constitutional right to an abortion, back anti-abortion judges and vote against taxpayer funding for the procedure.
But now, six months after the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights, the test has grown a whole lot harder — and potentially more politically treacherous.
Even after a backlash in support of abortion rights cost Republicans key seats in the midterm elections, a restive socially conservative wing is pushing the party’s lawmakers to embrace deeper restrictions. That effort was on stark display on Friday in Washington, when anti-abortion activists gather for the first post-Roe v. Wade version of their annual march. “We don’t end as a response to Roe being overturned,” said Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. “Why? Because we are not yet done. Let me say that again: We are not yet done.”
These activists and their allies are pressuring potential Republican presidential contenders to call for a national ban. Raising the stakes nearly two years before the 2024 contest, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, one of the most powerful anti-abortion groups, said that any candidate who does not support federal restrictions should be “disqualified” from winning the party’s nomination.
But some Republican strategists worry that such a position could repel general-election swing voters, who polls show are turned off by the idea of a national ban.
Other conservative activists are pushing for a new series of litmus tests that include restrictions on medication abortion, protections for so-called crisis pregnancy centers that discourage women from having abortions, and promises of fiercely anti-abortion appointees to run the Justice Department and the Food and Drug Administration.
For Republican politicians, these activists are forcing the question of what, exactly, it means to be “pro-life” now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.