The Reason Republican Messaging on Abortion Falls Flat
On Tuesday, November 7th, 2023, Republicans in multiple states suffered major losses in the off-year election. The struggle over abortion rights was a major factor in these outcomes. A few highlights:
- Issue #1, adding a right to reproductive freedom was approved by Ohio voters over Republican opposition.
- In deep-red Kentucky, voters re-elected Democratic Governor Andy Bershear over a Trump-endorsed challenger. Abortion access was a main feature of the Bershear campaign.
- Virginia voters helped Democrats maintain their majority in the state senate and flip the state house of delegates despite an active campaign by Republican Governor Glenn Younkin around a “compromise” abortion bill.
Media across the political spectrum agree that voters continue to be energized by the abortion debate since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This energy fueled the strong showing by Democrats.
Right-wing media outlets, understandably upset by the outcomes, cited various reasons, with much of the commentary focusing on poor messaging. Some called for avoiding the issue altogether in favor of others where Republicans could perform better — the economy, foreign policy, immigration, etc. Others called for more aggressive, even graphic, ads depicting abortion procedures to shock voters.
Here’s the thing: Nothing Republicans say will make any difference in voter perceptions of the GOP view on abortion. While they may get some traction on the economy or other issues, abortion is a lost cause for them.
Republicans are trying to talk their way out of a history of deception on abortion, dating back to well before Roe was overturned.
- Each of former President Trump’s Supreme Court nominees (Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney-Barrett) testified in their confirmation hearings that Roe was a settled precedent (but did stop short of promising not to overturn it). Both Democratic and Republican senators stated publicly that they felt…