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Will Abortion Make the GOP Blow 2024 Senate Opportunities?

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Following a disappointing 2022 Senate cycle, Republicans are in a much better position to win the majority in 2024 with the races they are competing in. The mainstream media is claiming otherwise though, especially when it comes to the abortion issue. On Wednesday morning The Hill published "Abortion politics roils Senate GOP," with a great deal of focus being on Senate races.

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"Abortion politics is emerging as a major headache for Republicans heading into the 2024 election and threatens to derail their chances of winning control of the Senate, as some Republicans think happened in last year’s midterm election," the piece opened by claiming. The piece also later cites a January Truth Social post from former and potentially future President Donald Trump, claiming that the abortion issue hurt Republicans in that 2022 cycle.

While speaking to Townhall in January at the March for Life, SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser mentioned in part that the interview was "the first" time she'd given such a reaction and that she had given the matter a lot of thought. "I've been thinking about this a lot, because he's always been a great ally, a great friend — personally and to the pro-life movement," Dannenfelser shared. "He's getting this wrong, in our opinion, obviously," she said when it comes to Trump casting blame. 

Stunningly, though, there's no mention in the piece of how the map is different. Republicans had a disappointing cycle to be sure in 2022, but it was always going to be a bit tricky. They won back no seats and even lost one, with now Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) beating Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz to replace retiring former Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). 

The game changes in 2024. Not only is it a presidential election year, but Republicans will likely hold onto the seats they are defending--such as in Florida, Missouri, and Texas--as well as potentially pick up some in Montana, West Virginia, and Ohio. Another piece from The Hill published in January highlighted these and some of the other great chances that Republicans have.

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Beyond the different kind of map in 2024, there's also the abortion issue itself. Not only did the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade with its Dobbs v. Jackson decision last June, but as states pass laws expanding or restricting abortion, the chemical abortion method is in the news as well. All present the pro-life movement with an opportunity to confront the issue directly. 

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who is the Senate minority whip, is quoted emphasizing that the Republican Party is the pro-life party, but also acknowledging that the party does not have their messaging quite together. This is especially the case when it comes to deciding if abortion is best left solely up to the states, or if the federal government does play some role:

Some GOP lawmakers favor a national abortion ban, while others want to leave the hot-button issue to the states entirely.  

Republican senators say they expect a lot of debate within their conference over the issue in the months leading up to the next election.   

“This issue is not going away,” said Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.), who added there’s not a consensus view “at the moment” within the Senate GOP conference on what role Congress should play in the national abortion debate.  

“I think it’s something we’ll have a lot of discussions about. Clearly, we’re the pro-life party and we want to take policy positions that demonstrate that and value life. Exactly what form that takes right now I think is still a matter of discussion,” he said.  

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When it comes to this "national abortion ban" that is mentioned in the piece, and has been cited by pro-abortion advocates and the Biden administration as a fear-mongering tactic, it's worth clarifying that what has actually been proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is legislation that would ban most abortions past 15-weeks. This is based not only on when unborn children in the womb can feel pain, but also how the gruesome procedure used for later abortions is more dangerous for the mother.

While running for his current seat to replace now-former Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who was retiring, the now Sen. JD Vance (R-OH) expressed the need for the bare minimum that such a law would provide. 

With states such as California now allowing for abortions up to and even after birth, the United States remains in the extreme minority of countries where elective abortions are allowed passed 20 weeks. California is more in line with human rights abusers such as China and North Korea, where abortions also take place so late. 

Shortly after the election last November, SBA Pro-Life America conducted a press call and released memos applauding those who were elected by being bold with their pro-life stance. Vance was one such person mentioned, as was now Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC), Sen. Graham, and Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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SBA Pro-Life America's E.V. Osment, the vice president of communications, also provided a statement to Townhall in response to The Hill article. "The issue of abortion is not going away and Republicans are the pro-life party. It’s imperative that Republicans define their pro-life position and contrast it with the extreme Democrat position of abortion on demand until birth for any reason. Including Democrat’s new strategy of dangerous mail-order abortion pills without in-person doctor visits," she said. 

Her statement also included a directive for pro-life candidates. "There’s a clear lesson to be learned from the 2022 midterms and Wisconsin Supreme Court race, when candidates do not define their stance on abortion and allow their Democrat opponents to do it for them, they lose. Governors DeSantis, Kemp, Abbott and more went up against vocal pro-abortion Democrat darlings, like Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke, and won. They followed the will of the people and signed ambitious legislation to protect life and voters rewarded them. Republicans need to recognize that the majority of Americans are on their side, wanting limits for abortion. They just need to be bold and speak to them."

One of the governors mentioned, DeSantis, is almost certainly expected to run for president. An announcement is expected sometime after the Florida state legislature session concludes next month. In addition to DeSantis signing a 15-week abortion ban into law last year, he also just recently signed a law banning most abortions after a heartbeat is detected, at about six weeks. While DeSantis has faced scrutiny for the bill, he's also had support for it, including from SBA Pro-Life America. 

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Jon Schweppe, the director of policy and government affairs at the American Principles Project (APP), pointed to his op-ed published on Tuesday in Newsweek, "Republicans Should Follow Ron DeSantis's Lead on Abortion." In addition to highlighting the benefits of pro-lifers "advocating for the best laws that can earn public support, while contrasting them with the Democrats' extremely unpopular abortion radicalism" in elections, he too had a clear message for pro-life candidates. 

"The alternative to Republicans supporting such common-sense laws is to let Democrats draw a much less flattering contrast. And when Republicans let Democrats define them, as they did in 2022, they lose—and lose big. The GOP 'ostrich strategy' of silence on abortion simply doesn't work," Schweppe wrote. 

It's also relevant that this cycle means a different chairman at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Sen. Steve Daines of Montana. Not only does Daines have bona fide pro-life credentials--he founded the Senate Pro-Life Caucus--he also won reelection handily against former Gov. Steve Bullock in 2020 when some thought the seat could flip. Daines beat the Democrat with 55 percent to Bullock's 45 percent.

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