The abortion issue is here to stay — right in voters’ faces — and that’s going to be very bad for Republicans

Thomas Wood
8 min readJun 27, 2022


Pro-life advocates have been trying to put on a happy face when discussing the likely political consequences of the Dobbs ruling in the midterms and later elections. 1/51

A common theme of the messaging has been that the fever over the issue has broken; that the pro-life forces have won; that both sides will come to their senses and agree to disagree; 2/51

that red states will pass severe restrictions and blue states will pass even more aggressive and expansive ones that protect abortion; that everybody will get what they want; and that everything will be fine, at least so far as the GOP is concerned. 3/51

Under this rosy scenario, the dust will settle very quickly, and voters will move on (or stay on) other more pressing issues, especially ones that currently favor the GOP, like worries over inflation and crime. 4/51

This scenario isn’t going to happen. That is so for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Republicans themselves are not going to let it happen. They have said so openly, as Kevin McCarthy did at the press conference on the Hill with House Rs the other day. 5/51

It is absolutely essential to understand that for pro-life advocates, abortion is not just another political issue like taxes or fighting the regulatory state. It has become more than anything else a religious issue. 6/51

For the GOP and the religious right (largely the same thing now due to the dominance of Christian evangelicals in the party) a fetus — even a newly fertilized egg or zygote — is a person with the same right to life as someone who is born. So abortion is actually murder. 7/51

That is why the GOP cannot be “moderate” on the issue or desist from pressing forward now with extreme and highly unpopular abortion bans. 8/51

Given the religious views of the core base, the only exception the GOP can consistently accommodate on the issue is making an exception for the life (and possibly the health) of the mother. This allows a trade-off involving life and life, or if you like, murder and murder. 9/51

There are about a dozen states that have already enacted anti-abortion “trigger laws.” Some will go into effect in about thirty days. Six states have such laws that went into effect immediately: Arkansas, South Dakota, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri and Oklahoma. 10/51

According to the What Me Worry pro-life advocates, everything is going to be fine for the GOP in these states because these are red states, with heavily Republican legislatures that enacted the laws. The measures will be popular, so no problem.

Wrong. 11/51

These laws were enacted when the discussion about abortion was an academic exercise because choice at that time was legally protected by Roe. So it didn’t cost the GOP in these states anything to give their core activists what they were demanding as the laws had no effect. 12/51

The problem for the GOP in these states now is that the laws *have* taken effect, and they are extremely unpopular with most voters. In fact, they are unpopular with a lot of *Republicans* in those states. 13/51

Take Oklahoma, for example. Oklahoma’s trigger law, which is now in effect, makes abortion from the time of conception a criminal offense, even in cases of rape and incest. Oklahomans don’t like this law, but now, unlike before, the GOP actually has to defend it. 14/51

A statewide poll taken in December showed less than one-third of voters in Oklahoma wanted a ban on all abortions (which is precisely what the state’s trigger law is). Even Republicans in Oklahoma were deeply divided on the question. 15/51

End of Roe makes abortion a crime in Oklahoma as state’s abortion ‘trigger’ law takes effectThe U.S. Supreme Court on Friday reversed the landmark decision that protected a person’s right to get an abortion for nearly 50 years.

Keep in mind that this is in OKLAHOMA, one of the reddest of all states. (Oklahoma has consistently voted Republican since 1968, and no Democrat has carried a single county there since 2004.) 16/51

Even worse for pro-choicers (which is to say, most voters), the GOP has vowed to make it impossible to terminate pregnancies in other ways than having abortions at abortion clinics. 17/51

They have vowed to block women in abortion-ban states from traveling to other states to have abortions there. 18/51

They have vowed to make it unlawful for women in abortion-resitricive states to receive abortifacient medications through the mail. (More than half of abortions use these medications, which have been medically approved by the FDA and the American Medical Association.) 19/51

And like the “trigger laws,” these new restrictive laws would make no exceptions for rape or incest. 20/51

The GOP knows that such measures are politically toxic. Nevertheless, Republican politicians are not going to compromise or recede in the face of their unpopularity. And in fact they can’t, even if they wanted to. 21/51

The GOP can’t compromise on these extraordinarily unpopular measures because the core anti-abortion base of the party is driving the issue, and that base cannot compromise even by including exceptions for rape and incest in the abortion bans. 22/51

It cannot, because any such exception written into an anti-abortion measure undercuts the rationale for making any abortion illegal. That is because, as noted above, the premise of the Republican position is that abortion is murder, 23/51

and that a fetus conceived as the result of a rape or incest has as much of a right to life as any other fetus (or zygote). Murder is murder. Rape or incest cases are no exceptions to that. 24/51

Note also that this political problem isn’t located just in the ‘trigger law” states. @gelliotmorris has pointed out that there are thirteen states (not just the states mentioned above), in which Republicans are planning to pass highly restrictive laws on abortion 25/51

even though clear majorities in those states have said they support a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy in all or almost all cases. 26/51

“Adults in only 12 states oppose abortions in most or all cases. That makes for 13 states where abortion will be now be banned or further resisted even though a majority of adults are pro-choice.” 27/51

Interestingly, given all the attention that is being given to Ron DeSantis these days as a possible or even likely candidate for the GOP nomination in 2024, Florida is one of these states. 28/51

It is widely recognized now by political analysts in Florida that DeSantis is in a lose-lose situation on the explosive abortion issue because of Dobbs. 29/51

If DeSantis doesn’t work to enact even more restrictive laws than Florida already has, he loses MAGA voters. If he does work to enact them, he loses the close to 60% of voters in Florida who oppose abortion bans. 30/51

As I have already argued, there is no way out for the GOP on this issue. And it is a political dumpster fire that is not going to go away as long as the woman’s right to choose is under threat anywhere in the United States. 31/51

The GOP sees abortion — virtually any abortion — as murder. But most voters — including a large minority of Republicans, as shown above — do not see it that way. 32/51

Here’s how most voters do see it: Before viability, it is not appropriate to call a fetus a human life, much less a human person. So terminating a pregnancy in the first trimester (Roe) is not murder. 33/51

Furtermore, making abortion illegal violates a woman’s right to privacy and her right to make an intensely personal decision that is nobody’s business but her own. 34/51

This stark difference between two different ways of looking at the matter is why most voters — and above all most women — are not going to give the GOP a pass on this issue, 35/51

and it is why voters are not going to assign lesser importance to this issue than other issues like taxes or inflation, as the GOP fervently hopes they will do. 36/51

They are not going to do so, because the issue involves irreconcilable views about the appropriateness of government interference in the lives of Americans, and Americans think such issues are important. 37/51

Republicans like to think of themselves as the party of small government — as the party that wants to keep government out of people’s lives. But on this issue, Republicans have imposed heavy government interference in an area where Americans overwhelmingly don’t want it. 38/51

Knowing this, the GOP is trying to finesse the issue by arguing now that all Dobbs did was treat abortion as a states’ rights issue, handing the issue over to state legislatures where the decision on the matter properly belongs. 39/51

This is complete nonsense. Dobbs was not some lofty judicial decision about states’ rights. It was an activist ruling by justices (all of them Republicans) 40/51

who answered the call from a party that needed Dobbs in order to make it possible to make abortions illegal wherever it could. That is the issue now. Voters are not deceived. They understand this. 41/51

Republicans are hoping that Biden’s dismal approval ratings and the economy will lead to the GOP taking the House and Senate in the midterms despite the negative fallout on the abortion issue. 42/51

This is possible, but far from certain, in my opinion. It is not clear that the abortion issue is going to play such a minor role in the midterms compared to bread and butter issues like inflation and the threat of recession. 43/51

Assuming that it will do so ignores the fact that culture issues since Trump’s win in 2016 have become central in American politics on both sides in a way that they never were before. 44/51

Besides, most voters probably know that expressing their unhappiness about inflation etc. at the ballot box won’t really get them anything. The causation of inflation is a complicated matter. Would Republicans do any better? 45/51

Abortion, however, is quite a different matter. Here, going to the polls and voting Democrats into office would have a transformative impact on this issue. And this will be true for a long, long time to come. 46/51

Some issues, like recessions and inflation, come and go, but this one won’t. Indeed, it is the long term impact that the GOP has to worry about the most, and remarks by Republicans show that they are in fact much more concerned about the long-term impact. 47/51

The GOP has to be particularly concerned about the long-term impact of the newly inflamed abortion issue in the suburbs, especially among suburban women. 48/51

To survive as a viable national party, Republicans must start gaining back some of the votes they lost to Democrats with this voting bloc in 2018 and 2020. Good luck doing that with the abortion issue hanging around their necks. 49/51

The upshot is that Republicans are locked into an extraordinarily unpopular political position; that this commitment is now an essential part of their brand; that they have no way to escape from it; and that the issue is not going away. 50/51

There is a saying about the dog that caught the car. Well, the rabid GOP just caught the abortion car.

I have tried to spell out in this essay some of the implications of this.

They are bad, very bad, for the GOP. 51/51



Thomas Wood

The Resistance. Vote Blue: True Blue American. We look forward, they look back. We’re progressive, they’re regressive. @twoodiac