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Is Newsom's Answer on Abortion a Warning to the GOP?

AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe

There are perhaps few more pro-abortion governors in the country than Gavin Newsom, the Democrat from California. Not only does the state now allow for abortions up until birth for any reason, but Newsom was hellbent on making it an abortion "sanctuary." He also sought to appeal to women in other states to come to California for their abortions by taking out billboard ads with Bible quotes to justify abortion. And it doesn't appear that he's letting up on the issue.

During his Sunday appearance on "Meet the Press," Newsom gave a deep dive interview as part of host Chuck Todd's last show. To begin the interview, Todd quoted Newsom from May of last year, not long after someone leaked the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, which ultimately overturned Roe v. Wade when it was officially handed down in June of last year. As was the theme among Democrats, many were more concerned about the outcome than the unprecedented leak.

"Where's my party? Where's the Democratic Party?" Todd quoted Newsom, though the governor had actually been forceful in declaring, "Where the hell is my party?"

Pointing out it's been over a year later, Todd asked Newsom, "Do you have that same sort of lack of focus and leadership? Do you sense it nationally?" This time, Newsom is not so perturbed about his party's handling of abortion.

"No, the opposite. I think we're on message, we're getting back on the offense, we're on our feet. I think demonstrably that proved itself," the governor responded, which should concern every pro-lifer and invigorate every abortion supporter. "I'm not just asserting it on the basis of what happened in the midterms. We out-performed, I think, our own quiet expectations, certainly, punditry that was out there at the time."

Newsom was indeed correct in pointing out that the pro-abortion Democratic Party performed better than expected in last November's midterms. Although Republicans do control the House, it's by a more narrow majority than expected. Democrats also actually gained a seat in the Senate since Pennsylvania replaced Republican Pat Toomey with Democrat John Fetterman. 

It's been debated whether abortion is really to blame for the lack of a red wave that had been expected. The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America has argued that not being more forceful on the issue is what caused Republican losses, as they pointed to how candidates like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), and now Sens. JD Vance (R-OH) and Ted Budd (R-NC) won because they embraced the pro-life message. 

As Catherine Glenn Foster, the CEO of Americans United for Life wrote in a November 10, 2022, op-ed for The American Conservative, "Abortion Didn't Hold Back Republicans."

There's no doubt, though, that Democratic voters felt energized by abortion, with many listing it as a top issue in exit polls. This is despite how economic issues, like inflation, where Republicans had more support than Democrats for handling, topped the abortion issue in the polls.

As he continued further, Newsom brought up those ads himself, saying, "I stand by what I said a year and a half ago," and that putting out those out-state-ads was something he expressed "out of stress and frustration."

Todd then jumped in to ask, "Do you think things are better, in your opinion, because the party did something better? Or simply the public is just pushing back on this abortion decision and that is motivating voters?"

When it comes to whether or not Democrats "did something better," that would entail fooling the American public. Democrats receive more support than Republicans on handling the abortion issue, even though most Americans do not support unlimited abortion for all nine months of pregnancy for any reason without legal limit. Although they have engaged in gaslighting on what they actually support, virtually all congressional Democrats support the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), which would do just that, and actually would expand Roe v. Wade.

As SBA Pro-Life America has pointed out, The New York Times revealed in a piece, "How Democrats Used the Abortion Debate to Hold Off a Red Wave," published shortly after last year's midterm electionsthat Democratic pollsters advised candidates to address the issue in a very specific way:

But overturning Roe v. Wade appears to have flipped the script. In the months since the June decision, Democrats seized on the issue, linking abortion to everyday family economics and health care and tapping into voters’ fears about the rise of far-right Republicans. They wove the issue into broader Democratic messages that framed the election as a referendum on what they describe as Republicans’ “extreme” views, and not on President Biden and Democratic control in Washington.

“It was all tied together,” Representative Diana DeGette, the Colorado Democrat and longtime head of the Pro-Choice Caucus in the House, said on Wednesday morning. “It wasn’t like, here’s our wedge issue — abortion. People were thinking, ‘I’m worried about the economy. I’m worried about freedoms being taken away,’ and they were worried about democracy, too.”

...

But the results so far signal the struggle ahead for Republicans, who leave this election divided on an issue that has long been a bedrock for the party. The socially conservative wing of the party remains determined to advance their cause, but they now face a Republican establishment more inclined to see debates over abortion restrictions as a political liability.

In a column posted to Townhall in April of this year, Ann Coulter highlighted the position that losing pro-life candidates took, such as the Republican gubernatorial nominees in Pennsylvania and Michigan. At the time, there were six state ballot initiatives about abortion, with Coulter pointing out that the pro-life side lost every time.

When it comes to Newsom's response, he offered, "I think the abortion decision has obviously been galvanizing in that respect. And it's demonstrably so." He went on to list other examples, such as in Ohio, where Amendment 1, which would have required constitutional amendments to pass by 60 percent rather than 50 plus 1, just failed last month. While there is a radically pro-abortion, anti-parental rights initiative on the ballot this November in Ohio, it hasn't passed, not yet at least. Newsom also pointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, where liberals gained a majority in April with the election of pro-abortion Judge Janet Protasiewicz, who was supported by the Democrats.

"So look, it's obviously played an outsize role," Newsom continued. "But I think we're getting our feet under us. I think we're focused on democracy and freedom, taking back the mantra of freedom, not submitting to the other side that they own patriotism. The president's developing his message and strategy." Newsom has tried to argue before that California has more "freedom" because of its abortion policies, as he did when going after Florida and DeSantis directly through ads last year. 

This is in addition to those ads mentioned above that Newsom put out not long after those targeting Florida. Ads had also been put out in various pro-life states inviting women there to come to California for out-of-state abortions. They even sought to justify abortion using Bible quotes.

As he continued during the cross-talk with Todd, Newsom pointed out Democrats "have an opportunity in the next few months," which again, should concern pro-life voters. While it may be an off year for elections, there's still the Ohio ballot initiative, as well as statewide races in Kentucky and Virginia. If Virginia is able to hold onto the Republican majority in the House of Delegates and take back control of the state Senate, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin can rule with a united legislature and likely enact his plan to limit abortion to 15 weeks.

When Todd asked Newsom, "Do you feel like you see it?" the governor was clear with his "absolutely." Newsom gave a more complete answer as Todd expanded upon his question before they moved to another topic.

"I mean, do you feel like you know what the second term agenda is?" Todd asked. 

While Newsom isn't entirely sure what that might entail, what is clear is that he's not backing down, something that should indeed serve as a warning. "I don't know about the second term agenda, because we're still regaling an extraordinary success of the last few years, of which we now get to apply the principles and advance a lot of what has been asserted. Meaning, make real the commitments we've made through these landmark legislative packages," he offered. "But beyond that, I think the fundamental messaging has improved. The organized framework that the ads that they’ve put out, the last five ads, I think have been spot-on. And now we have to go out and campaign. And I think you're going to see that over the next few months."

It's not merely the Democrats that should scare pro-lifers on this, but perhaps the Republican Party as well. Democrats aren't just doing well on the issue, albeit likely by deceit. Republicans aren't doing too well on it. Many are divided as to if it's an issue completely left up to the states, which would allow for California, New York, Illinois, and others to have abortion up until birth without legal limit. Others believe that the federal government should play some role, and there should be some basic minimum, such as a 15-week ban. These divisions appear to occur within the Republican presidential primary as well.

Republicans may be moving further away from the issue. Additionally, the California Republican Party, as Madeline has covered, may be removing language in its party platform that opposes abortion. Congressional Republicans have also met to discuss how to rebrand the abortion issue, with possible ideas including no longer using the term "pro-life."

Democrats, on the other hand, don't look to be coming close to giving up. 

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