This summer, as House Republicans took stock of their path to holding the majority, National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Richard Hudson of North Carolina brushed off concerns about the GOP’s deeply unpopular anti-abortion stance.
“I don’t think it played a major role last time,” he said of the 2022 midterm cycle, “and I don’t think it’s going to play a major role this time.”
Republicans may hope, or even believe, that’s true. But it’s an outlier opinion among politicians and analysts alike, including Democrats, who made protecting reproductive rights a central pillar of a midterm strategy that proved to be wildly successful given historical precedent.
And while many national figures in the Republican Party continue to downplay the issue, the political landscape is continuing to shift underneath them. Why? Because their forced-birth zealotry is devastating Americans’ lives, headline by headline.
In February, for instance, CNN reported on an Ohio couple whose pregnancy turned into a horror story, and the story offers the perfect example of how Republican policies are changing hearts and minds—even among Republican voters.
After the couple was tragically informed their baby would never survive outside the womb due to a fetal abnormality, they suffered weeks of agony and anguish. Initially unable to access an in-state abortion in a timely fashion, they also endured a statutory wait period to go out of state, even as the pregnancy’s complications posed a greater danger to the mother.
“It felt very inhumane for both our baby and for my wife,” the husband, Kyle Long, said.
Long has begun lobbying state Republicans to change the law. “I am a lifelong Republican, but this has turned me into a one-issue voter for those that support reproductive rights,” he wrote to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Sen. J.D. Vance. Neither Republican had responded as of the story’s publication.
But some Republican politicians—particularly those in tight general election races—are responding.
Take Kentucky Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial nominee Daniel Cameron, for instance. After his Democratic rival, Gov. Andy Beshear, launched an ad on Sept. 1 highlighting Cameron’s no-exceptions position on abortion, Cameron responded a little over two weeks later, flip-flopping his stance during a talk radio interview. Cameron now says he would sign legislation that created exceptions for rape and incest if it reached his desk as governor.
That’s two Republicans right there who have evolved on the issue. One of them hopes to ensure survival for pregnant Americans who endure complications; the other hopes to ensure his own political survival.
One by one, GOP politicians in tight general election races will have revelatory turnabouts on their erstwhile deeply held beliefs until, one day, national Republican leaders like NRCC Chair Hudson admit the party has an abortion problem.
But it will be a long, slow, painful process, driving fissures through a coalition that once made the Republican Party consistently formidable at the ballot box. Nothing lasts forever.
What do you do if you’re associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you’re Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week’s episode of “The Downballot,” we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris’ 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before “casting” them. Officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won’t shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.