The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end federal abortion protections secured half a century ago under Roe v. Wade continues to flummox Republicans who finally got what they wished for. After decades of running for elections promising precisely this—an end to legal abortion—Republicans are desperately trying to rewrite that history, pretend like the Supreme Court didn’t do what it just did, or simply change the subject. It’s not working.
In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision, Republicans and all the white, male pundits insisted it wasn’t going to make a difference in the election and that Republicans should just ignore it. That tactic has failed in the face of a huge victory for abortion rights in Kansas, the stunning upset by unapologetically pro-abortion rights Democrat Pat Ryan in a New York special election, the massive uptick and shift in voter registrations driven by abortion rights, and rafts of political polls.
Watching them try to wriggle their way out of this trap they set for themselves would be hilarious if it weren’t for the profound stakes. Actually, there are aspects that are still hilarious. Like Arizona’s Blake Masters, the Republican Senate candidate who scrubbed his campaign website’s abortion policy page last week to tone down the part where he says he is “100% pro-life” and supports “a federal personhood law (ideally a Constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed.”
As if those statements hadn’t already been copied and recorded for posterity.
By the way, In most of the personhood proposed laws put forward so far, a fertilized egg is considered a person. Never mind he’s been advocating for that, Masters is trying to change the subject now to his support for 15-week ban. And all the weeks leading up to it, too, is the part he is trying to keep quiet. It’s all the Democrats’ fault, his website says, because they “lie about my views on abortion.”
The website scrubbing has become a bit of a fad for these guys. North Carolina House candidate Christian Castelli wiped the issue from his site after he won his primary. In Minnesota, Tyler Kistner has left it entirely off his site. But the first time he challenged Democratic Rep. Angie Craig in 2020, he prominently declared his “100% Pro-Life” credentials.
That’s one of the tactics we’re seeing from Republicans—they allege that Democrats are lying and also they’re the extreme ones for insisting that people should have a say over what happens to their bodies. Masters has tried that one on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, the incumbent. Because, sure, it’s perfectly balanced to say a fertilized egg has the same rights as the living, breathing realized human body hosting it.
Republicans are also trying to pretend as though nothing has really changed, that federal protections being gone really doesn’t make a difference and state after state criminalizing and banning the procedure isn’t a profound attack on the basic human rights of half the country’s population. Instead, they’re acting as though the abortion debate is the same as it’s ever been and that they can still talk about “partial birth” and “fetal hearbeat” and “15 weeks” and that the next thing the forced birther movement—which they’ve joined and exploited and made promises to—isn’t going to do is demand a federal law completely banning abortion in every state.
And blue-state Republicans—who won their primaries on their forced birther positions—are furiously backtracking. Like Tiffany Smiley, who is running against Sen. Patty Murray in Washington. She said on a podcast (as captured in this Murray ad) that she’s “100% pro-life.” Smiley has her own ads out now, in which she insists that “I’m pro-life, but I oppose a federal abortion ban.” Right. In another she says “As an OB-GYN triage nurse, I have seen the heartbreak and the tears.” Get that? She’s empathetic. “It is past time that we stop treating pregnancy like a disease that prevents women from getting a job or a raise,” she says. Okay. She’s going to reform business and society so pregnant people are discriminated against in the workplace? Sure.
Mark Ronchetti, a former TV meteorologist who is running against Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico, is trying the same thing. “I’m personally pro-life, but I believe we can all come together on a policy that reflects our shared values,” Ronchetti said in an ad that’s been running in the state. He’s tried to paint Lujan Grisham as “extreme” on abortion, saying “We can end late-term abortion, while protecting access to contraception and health care.”
These two are running in states where abortion is going to remain legal and they know they can’t say they’ll stop it. At least not yet.
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