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How abortion became the “Achilles heel” of American Republicans | Political news

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Washington DC – Be careful what you wish for, says the old adage.

A year after American conservatives achieved their decades-old goal of overturning the Constitution. right to abortionRepublican politicians face setbacks on this issue.

Bans and restrictions on abortion are not popular among Americans, and those who defend them pay electorally.

Public opinion polls and numerous elections – even in Republican strongholds – have suggested over the past year that the majority of American voters want to protect the right to this procedure.

Even former President Donald Trump – who boasted of appointing three Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade – privately admitted that Republicans are “getting killed over abortion,” according to US media reports.

Tresa Undem, co-founder of the nonpartisan research firm PerryUndem, said the issue of abortion has been an “Achilles heel” for Republicans since the Supreme Court decision.

“This is a tough question for Republicans right now and in the upcoming national elections,” Undem told Al Jazeera. She added that voters in favor of abortion rights not only prioritize abortion rights on the ballot, but also tie the issue to other topics, including broader women’s rights and threats to democracy.

The Dobbs decision

In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe, the 1973 precedent that established a constitutional right to abortion through the 14th Amendment’s privacy protections.

With Dobbs replacing Roe, abortion was no longer federally protected. After the decision, Republican-controlled states rushed to enact abortion bans and severe restrictions, some making no exceptions for rape and incest.

Such laws, which critics say violate women’s bodily autonomy and endanger their lives, are being confronted legal challengesand several have been blocked by the courts.

They are also unpopular. Growing evidence shows that most Americans do not want the government to restrict their reproductive rights.

In an NPR/PBS poll released this week, 57 percent of respondents said they were opposed to overturning Roe. A May Gallup poll showed that 52 percent of Americans identify as “pro-choice” — in favor of abortion rights — compared to 44 percent as “pro-life.” Additionally, 69 percent want abortion to be legal during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Abortion has been a controversial issue in American politics for decades. Conservatives – often motivated by religious beliefs – have pushed to ban the procedure, arguing that abortion is tantamount to ending human life.

Kansas, which has voted for Republican presidential candidates since 1968, offers an early indication of how the political landscape has changed under the Dobbs decision. In August 2022, his voters dealt a blow to the conservatives, win hands down a referendum to remove the right to abortion from the state constitution.

“This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own health care decisions,” President Joe Biden said at the time. .

Democrats “benefited” from Dobbs

In the November midterm elections, voters in five other states favored protecting abortion rights through voting proposals — including in Kentucky, a Republican stronghold.

Michigan, a swing state that voted for Trump in 2016, also approved a referendum to enshrine abortion rights. Democrats, emphasizing abortion rights, comfortably won Michigan’s three major statewide elections last year and took control of the Legislature for the first time For years.

And it wasn’t just in Michigan. In the key midterm elections, Democrats who made abortion a key issue emerged triumphant, leading the party to a victory. historically good performance nationally, despite galloping inflation and economic concerns.

Undem said the Dobbs decision definitely improved Democrats’ prospects in the 2022 elections.

“There’s no doubt it was a setback (for the Republicans). I mean, every indicator, every ballot measure that people voted on, every pre- and post-election poll, including ours, showed that Democrats really benefited from the Dobbs decision and that abortion was a major question,” she said.

A woman holds a sign that says: "My body.  My choice.  My vote."
Protesters at the “Rally for Our Rights” demonstration ahead of the 2023 Wisconsin Supreme Court elections in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison on April 2 (File: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

And this is not an isolated case, according to Undem. Reproductive rights continued to resonate with voters and will play a role in the 2024 election, she said, citing polling results her office conducted.

Earlier this year, in Wisconsin, for example, a liberal candidate defeated a conservative rival for a seat on the state Supreme Court in a closely watched race widely seen as a referendum on abortion rights.

So far, there is no sign that Democrats are abandoning the issue.

“Let’s be clear: The vast, overwhelming majority of Americans stand with women and support the right to choose abortion,” Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said in a speech this week.

“Everywhere the right to abortion was on the ballot last November – everywhere – the right to abortion was won. Yet Republicans are ignoring their voters and doubling down on their extreme anti-abortion policies.

On the way to 2024

Besides popularity, Glenn Altschuler, a professor of American studies at Cornell University, pointed to a new gap in political energy between supporters and opponents of abortion rights.

He said, when Roe v. Wade was the law of the land, it was easier to mobilize people against it than for it. Those who seek change are often more enthusiastic than those who wish to preserve the status quo.

“And that’s why it’s been a winning issue for Republicans for many decades,” Altschuler said.

Today, the situation is reversed, with the energy of the people campaigning for the right to abortion. “When you’re fighting to restore something that’s been taken from you, it’s a motivating issue,” the professor said.

This energy could be of utmost importance in the 2024 presidential elections. With Biden and Trump — two candidates with relatively low approval ratings — should be their respective parties’ nominees, voter turnout can be crucial, Altschuler explained.

“Democrats are going to have to depend on two issues to get voters. One is the threat to democracy, especially if Donald Trump is the Republican Party nominee, and the other is abortion,” he said.

Some Republicans seem aware of the political risks linked to the abortion debate. For example, Trump – the party’s leading presidential candidate – has been uncertain about whether he would support a national ban on abortion.

And recently he suggested the six-week ban enacted by his Republican rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, is “too harsh.”

But other primary candidates are starting to challenge him on the issue, and Altschuler said the former president can’t continue to dodge questions about a federal ban the general elections come.

“Ironically, the issue of abortion is kept alive and active by Republicans,” Altschuler said.

“By passing legislation banning abortion after six weeks, creating a judge in Texas If we look to get rid of abortion drugs across the United States, the problem arises even among Americans in blue states who feel threatened by abortion because of all these actions.

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