Republican-based Anti-Abortion Groups are Losing State Battles Over Reproductive Rights 

Health and Gender Policy Brief #168 | By: Geoffrey Small | November 20, 2023

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Policy Summary:

Ohio has become the latest battleground to overwhelmingly vote in favor of abortion in the United States. 56.6% of Ohio voters approved a measure protecting reproductive rights on November 7th. This follows a pattern of Republican-held sovereigns, which include Kansas and Kentucky, to vote in favor of protecting abortions. States across the U.S. facing elections have upset Republican efforts to maintain the status quo in red states. The Democratic Party has consolidated their message to reflect public opinion, which indicate that the majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal. Republicans are struggling to maintain a consistent message, as anti-abortion activists have experienced infighting on how to administer laws post-Roe v. Wade. This analysis will explore how anti-abortion groups are losing the state battle, as reproductive rights organizations are declaring victories in Republican strongholds.

Policy Analysis:

Ohio wasn’t the only state to retaliate against Republican efforts related to abortion bans during this election cycle. The state legislature in Virginia has flipped control to the Democratic Party, after the November elections led to an upset for Republican candidates. Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin campaigned on a promise to sign an abortion ban if approved by the state legislature. Virginians responded by ensuring no abortion ban will be signed as long as the Democrats maintain legislative control. Democratic Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear also defeated promising Republican candidate Daniel Cameron by a wide margin. Republicans in Kentucky, who control a vast majority of the state legislature and other elected offices, are trying to understand why.

To understand how reproductive rights organizations and the Democratic Party have been so successful in recent elections, one can analyze what antiabortion groups are saying after the series of Republican upsets. Rev. Pat Mahoney is a prominent anti-abortion activist and chief strategy officer for Stanton Public Policy Center, which supports a network of anti-abortion clinics. He stated “hardly any Republican has handled this well,” noting that “they’ve been all over the map.” Mahoney explained “I live in Virginia. The state is doing well, the economy’s doing well, by all accounts. [Glenn] Youngkin is a relatively popular governor. Every ad I saw on television for every Democrat – I mean, a barrage of them – was how MAGA Republicans or pro-life anti-choice activists want to take women’s rights away. They were all about abortion.”

Mahoney’s statements reflect the Democratic Party’s unity on pro-choice and Republican disagreements on how anti-abortion laws would be administered. Multiple anti-abortion groups signed a letter to lawmakers stating “As national and state pro-life organizations, representing tens of millions of pro-life men, women, and children across the country, let us be clear: We state unequivocally that any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women is not pro-life and we stand firmly opposed to such efforts.” However, there’s a major rift when it comes to extremist abolitionist groups like Abolish Abortion, which was founded by Bradley Pierce, a Constitutional Attorney who filed a brief during the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade. Not only was he influential in helping pass draconian abortion restrictions in Texas, but he worked with Louisiana State Representatives in an attempt to pass a law that would allow prosecutors to criminally charge patients who receive an abortion as a homicide .

The message is clear for the Democratic Party, campaigning on a pro-choice platform will win elections. As Republican anti-abortion groups are fractured on how to handle their post-Roe v. Wade message, victories for Democrats and reproductive rights may be all but guaranteed.

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