Earlier this week, the Republican National Committee released a notice to GOP campaigns nationwide on how they should approach the topic of abortion.
Candidates were instructed to "seek common ground" by pressing Democratic positions on late-term abortions, or to ignore the issue altogether and focus on crime and the economy. The party decided its best strategy pertaining to abortion for the coming midterms: “Leave it to the states.”
The GOP's unified front fell apart Tuesday, when South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a nationwide bill to ban abortions as early as 15 weeks into pregnancy. Republican strategist John Thomas has called the decision to propose the bill an "absolute disaster," as even with Graham's proposed exceptions for life-threatening pregnancies, the GOP's abortion stance does not align with the vast majority of American voters.
The Wall Street Journal reports that 60 percent of registered voters believe abortion should be legal and accessible, increasing from 55 percent since just March of this year. The amount who believe it should be illegal with exceptions for rape and incest have decreased from 30 to 29 percent, with those who do not believe in exceptions falling from 11 to 6 percent.
Democratic pollster Molly Murphy, who is currently working on the Arizona Senate race, believes the Republican party is only hurting their campaigns by reinforcing the notion that they will pass strict abortion bans if elected to office. She explained: “I feel like I’ve had a roller coaster of a day between, ‘What kind of three-dimensional chess are they playing?’ to kind of settling into, ‘They’re not.'"
When asked by The Washington Postwhether or not they would back Graham’s legislation, the GOP Senate candidates in battleground states "gave ambiguous answers or did not respond." Thomas agreed with their decision to stay silent, saying on abortion: "It's not a winning issue for Republicans."
Even under the protections of Roe v. Wade, most abortions were not performed after 24 weeks except in cases of medical complications. Based on that, Graham's 15 week line is not the strictest abortion ban recently proposed. Still, with GOP officials pushing bans in several states harsher than Graham's bill, Democrats cannot afford to concede even the 9 week difference. As Republicans fail to build a united front amongst the party, there remains no reason for Democratic concession.
Even if passed by the House and Senate, President Joe Biden would presumably veto Graham's bill. Though it is unlikely the ban will pass the Senate, as it would need 60 votes to override the filibuster, and more officials are campaigning on securing access to abortion. In fact, recent polling data shows that the issue has overwhelmingly swayed voters to support Democratic candidates.
"Republicans' national abortion ban will be on the ballot, in every Senate race," said Michigan Senator Gary Peters. "The GOP has shown, once again, the threat they pose to a woman's right to make her own health care decisions -- and voters will make their voices heard by standing with Senate Democrats in November."