MADISON, Wis. (AP) — When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in June, Wisconsin’s 1849 law that bans the procedure except when the life of the mother is in danger became relevant.
Republicans in the Legislature blocked an attempt by Democratic Governor Tony Evers to overturn the law. However, there is disagreement within the GOP about how to move forward when they return to the state Capitol in January.
Powerful state Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos supports strengthening the exception for the life of the mother and adding protections for rape and incest. Others, including Republican state Rep. Barbara Dittrich, say the law should stay as it is, with no exceptions for rape and incest.
For decades, Republicans like Vos and Dittrich appealed to conservative voters, and donors, with broad condemnation of abortion. But the Supreme Court decision is forcing Republicans from state legislatures to Congress on the campaign trail to more specifically articulate what that opposition means, sometimes creating division over where the party should position itself.
Dittrich says consensus among his fellow Republicans on an alternative to the 1849 law would be an “enormous challenge.”
“We heard once that the Democrats were the big-top party,” he said in an interview. “Now I would say that the Republican Party is more of a big-tent party on some of these issues.”
Of course, supporters of abortion rights are now a distinct minority in Republican politics. Only two Republican members of Congress, Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, publicly support passage of legislation to reinstate protections for women’s right to choose that the Supreme Court struck down in overturning Roe v. Wade. In Colorado, US Senate candidate Joe O’Dea is the rare Republican candidate this year to support codification of Roe.
But the debate over even a limited set of circumstances in which abortion might be legal caused some division within the Republican Party in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
In Indiana, after a decade of stalled abortion legislation, empowered Republicans passed the first near-total ban on abortion since the Supreme Court ruling. But even that move sparked dissent within the GOP. exemptions for rape and incest prevailed until 10 weeks after 50 Republicans joined all Democrats in including them.
Still, 18 Republicans voted against the bill’s final passage, with about half saying the bill went too far and the rest saying it was too weak.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Republicans have spent decades restricting abortion access and there are ongoing discussion about a near-total ban. But some in the legislature expressed concern about further pushing the current six-week ban and urged a slowdown, particularly after seeing voters in Kansas criticize a ballot measure that would have allowed the legislature there to ban abortion.
“It’s like you’re playing with live ammunition right now,” Republican Rep. Tom Davis told The Associated Press.
The Supreme Court ruling paved the way for severe restrictions or bans on abortion in almost half of the state. Currently, nine states have laws banning abortion from conception, with three more (Tennessee, Idaho and Texas) taking effect on August 25. Three states (Georgia, South Carolina, and Ohio) have laws that prohibit abortion when fetal heart activity is detected, at about six weeks. Florida law prohibits abortion at 15 weeks and Arizona will after September 24.
Some experts say the inconsistency among Republicans on how to move forward underscores how new the debate is and how unprepared the party was for it.
“Historically, Republican candidates and lawmakers were in a politically convenient position when it came to being ‘pro-life,'” University of Denver political science professor Joshua Wilson told the AP in an email.
Until Roe was struck down, Republican-controlled states could introduce legislation to dismantle abortion access, knowing that federal courts bound by law at the time would block more aggressive regulations. That and the issue’s lower prominence among Democratic and moderate voters, Wilson noted, “were linked guardrails against political backlash.”
The defeated Kansas ballot measure surprised supporters on both sides not only because it was defeated by a 20 percentage point margin, but also because it increased turnout, driven by voters not participating in the Republican primary. Prioritization of abortion and women’s rights grows among abortion rights advocates, and Democrats seek to capitalize into change by campaigning on the issue and lobbying for ballot measures in other states.
Polls show that the most extreme anti-abortion laws are at odds with the American public and even with most Republicans.
the AP-NORC July survey it showed that Republicans are largely opposed to abortion “for any reason” and to 15 weeks of pregnancy. But only 16% of Republicans say that abortion in general should be “illegal in all cases.”
Most Republicans said their state should generally allow a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion if the child would be born with a life-threatening disease (61%), the person became pregnant as a result of rape or incest (77 %) or if the person’s health is in serious danger (85%).
A majority of Republicans, 56%, also said their state should generally allow abortions at six weeks of pregnancy.
Republican politicians may begin to face pressure to satisfy the more conservative anti-abortion opponents in their base (they want outright abortion bans) and the moderate or independent voter, who is more accepting of abortion earlier in pregnancy and in extenuating circumstances.
That has led some candidates to move from hard-line positions in their primaries to more diffuse rhetoric ahead of the general election in purple states. In Arizona, the Republican candidate for governor, kari lakewho said during the primaries that “abortion is the ultimate sin” and that abortion pills should be banned, responded to the Legislature when asked about the specifics of abortion policy after he won.
When he ran to be the Georgia Republicans’ nominee for the US Senate, herschel walker he was unequivocal in his support for a total ban on abortion with no exceptions. Now that he is the candidate running in a close general election contest, he is more circumspect. Asked plainly if he would vote for an outright ban in a Republican-controlled Senate, Walker demurred.
“That’s an ‘if,'” Walker said, telling reporters he won’t consider such a hypothetical scenario “at this time.”
Back in Wisconsin, Evers, who is running for re-election this year, has consistently vetoed anti-abortion legislation introduced in recent years by the Republican legislature. The Republican candidate for governor, Tim Michels, who won the Republican primary last week, said during his campaign that the 1849 state law is “an exact mirror” of his position; he admits no exceptions for rape or incest.
The July AP-NORC poll showed that 55% of moderate and liberal Republicans said abortion should generally be legal in all or most cases and 39% said abortion should be illegal in most cases. of the cases. Only 5% said that abortion should be illegal in all cases.
But even among conservative Republicans, only 24% say abortion should be illegal in all cases; 60% of conservative Republicans said abortion should be illegal in most cases.
The issue is increasingly the focus of ads for Democratic candidates for the US House of Representatives and Senate this summer, while shrinking in ads for Republican candidates, according to an analysis by Wesleyan Media Project. Democrats paint Republicans as extremists on abortion, hoping the issue will win over voters in the midterms.
“If we want to be relevant to the debate, there has to be some negotiation. If we draw a hard line, we may be on the outside looking in in the legislative chambers and in Congress,” said Republican strategist Jason Roe.
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser said overturning Roe democratizes the process of regulating abortion and it’s up to each state to come to a consensus “where true believers on both sides are very likely not get what you want.” wants,” she said.
Still, for Dannenfelser, “every law that is passed is a gain for the pro-life movement because for almost 50 years we had nothing,” he said. “It’s more than we had, and that’s how I see it.”
Fingerhut reported from Washington. Associated Press reporters Bill Barrow in Athens, Georgia; Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix; and Tom Davies in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION