CHICAGO (AP) — Bold anti-abortion activist See the 2024 presidential election as an opportunity to cement its influence over the Republican Party.
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the most influential group in the anti-abortion movement, is telling every potential Republican presidential candidate that to win them over — or avoid being targeted by the opposition — they State restrictions on abortion procedures must be supportedActivists say exceptions for rape, incest or saving a mother’s life are acceptable, but leaving the issue up to states to decide is not acceptable.
“It’s a level of protection that applies to every state. It’s the bottom line of what we want to do,” said Frank Cannon, chief political strategist at Susan B. Anthony. “Anything below that is unacceptable and not someone the SBA can support. So, it’s as simple as that.”
The directive is providing an early litmus test for Republicans considering running in the first presidential election since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision that put federal protections on abortion in place for about 50 years. While the tough stance may please anti-abortion activists who dominate the Republican primary, it could create problems for the party’s eventual nominee in the general election.
Voters pass ballot measure to protect abortion rights In six states in 2022, including Kansas, former President Donald Trump twice won by double digits. The AP VoteCast, a survey of midterm voters, shows that the Supreme Court ruling is generally unpopular. About six in 10 said they were angry or unhappy about it, and about the same percentage said they favored a law that would guarantee legal abortion nationwide.
Supporters of abortion rights say the issue is a “game changer” that helped Democrats last year and will energize voters even more in 2024, two years after seeing the impact of the restrictions.
“We’re in a country where 18 states don’t have access to abortion, and that number isn’t going down. It’s going to go up as more court cases are decided,” said Jenny Lawson, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s vice president of organization and engagement . She predicts that people will see headlines “over and over” about pregnant children being forced to go abroad for abortions or people being denied proper abortion care because doctors fear responsibility.
Pressure from the anti-abortion movement has put Trump, who last year announced his third bid for the presidency, in perhaps the most complicated position.
Arguably more responsible than anyone else for overturning Roe, he appointed three anti-abortion Supreme Court justices who upheld last year’s ruling. But he also made clear that he thinks pushing further would hurt Republicans, blaming anti-abortion leaders for failing to do enough for GOP candidates in the midterms.
“I just didn’t see them fighting to win in the last election,” Trump said in an interview with longtime Christian Broadcasting Network commentator David Brody.
Trump, who called himself “very pro-choice” before entering politics, emphasized that exceptions against rape, incest and mother’s life made it “harder to win an election.”He criticized evangelical leaders for being slow to endorse his latest campaignSlamming pastors like Robert Jeffries for deciding to wait to assess others in the field is “a sign of disloyalty.”
Cannon called the idea last year that opposition to abortion hurt the GOP “absolutely ridiculous,” noting that a candidate like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — one of the top potential Republican presidential nominees — could easily win re-election. DeSantis last year signed a law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Cannon said the Republican candidates who were “slapped in the face” were those who tried to avoid the topic.
“What you have to do is fight for protections that the American people think are reasonable, not extremism without exception, or even late-term abortion,” Cannon said. “If you do that, it’s a winning combination.”
SBA Pro-Life America and its affiliated super PAC, which raised more than $60 million for the 2020 campaign, are talking to every potential candidate, Cannon said. While the record is being discussed, what matters in 2024 are the policies candidates prioritize when announcing their bids. He said the SBA’s specific request was to support “at a minimum” a “heartbeat bill” or a “mitigable” bill.
The heartbeat bill would make it illegal to have abortions after heart activity is detected, which happens around six weeks into pregnancy — before some women know they’re pregnant. Legislation introduced last year by Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., that involves fetuses feeling pain would ban the procedure around 15 weeks. Graham’s bill failed to pass the Democratic-controlled House, and even some fellow Republicans distanced themselves from it ahead of the midterm elections.
Trump’s stance has opened up potential rivals such as former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both evangelical Christians with longstanding anti-abortion stances.
Pence spent months visiting so-called crisis pregnancy centers that advise women not to have abortions. He has begun touring large churches, including Jeffreys First Baptist Church in Dallas, and speaking before major anti-abortion groups.
His advocacy group, Advancing American Freedom, has pushed through Congress to pass legislation including a national abortion ban starting around six weeks into pregnancy and a bill establishing legal personality at conception. Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff and longtime adviser, said of the announced and potential 2024 candidates, “I think he is most comfortable explaining his pro-life beliefs and their in accordance with.”
For Pence, he said, the issue was not just about politics.
“Mike did this because it was the core reason why he ran for office and won for the first time. It’s always been a top priority for him, and it’s a priority,” he said.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, is another potential candidate to sign a ban on abortion into law in her state. The 2016 law bans abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy and if the mother’s life is in danger but does not include cases of rape or incest.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, Haley said it was up to states, not “unelected judges,” to control abortion policy. That stance has put her at odds with the SBA and other anti-abortion groups.
Others see abortion as a potential weakness for DeSantis. A spokeswoman for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who recently lashed out at DeSantis and questioned his stance on the issue, is also exploring potential campaign opportunities.
“Governor Noam is the only governor in the country to defend Dobbs’ decision on national television,” Ian Fury wrote in an email to National Review. “Where is Governor DeSantis? Hiding behind a 15-week moratorium. Does he think a 14-week-old baby has no right to life?”
Cannon emphasized that the anti-abortion movement is the “foot soldier” of the Republican Party in the election, with a large proportion of primary voters.
“No Republican candidate can win the presidency without the support of the anti-abortion movement,” he said.
Colvin reported from New York.