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Markos Moulitsas: No GOP win on abortion

Anne Wernikoff

Republicans doubled down on their anti-choice rhetoric last week. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus spoke at a March for Life gathering of anti-choice activists, while committee members easily passed a resolution rebutting charges that Republicans were engaged in a “war on women” ... by passing yet another anti-choice resolution. 

The resolution states that the party “will support Republican pro-life candidates who fight back against Democratic deceptive war on women rhetoric by pointing out the extreme positions on abortion held by Democratic opponents,” and “urges all Republican pro-life candidates [and] consultants ... to reject a strategy of silence on the abortion issue, when candidates are attacked with war on women rhetoric.”  

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Resolution supporters claimed that GOP “silence” on the issue of abortion cost them electorally in 2012, pointing to Gallup polling showing significant support for certain abortion restrictions, such as 87 percent backing informed consent laws, 71 percent supporting parental consent laws and 69 percent supporting a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion. 

Of course, these anti-choice activists aren’t fighting to merely place limits on abortion. They want to ban it outright. 

Curiously, the resolution — so forthcoming with polling on waiting periods and the like — didn’t address how Americans feel about outlawing abortion. That’s probably because the vast majority — 78 percent, according to Gallup — believe that abortion should be legal in “all or most” situations. Americans might be open to limited restrictions, but they overwhelmingly support the underlying principle of choice. 

But conservative candidates don’t support choice, and they just can’t restrain themselves from revealing their true feelings about women’s agency over their own bodies. In 2012, Republicans lost two gimme Senate races in Missouri and Indiana because their candidates just couldn’t hide the crazy. Arguing that raped women can’t get pregnant because “a female body has ways to shut that whole thing down” and claiming that, if they did, it was what “God intended,” is no way to win elections.

It’s not as if 2014 is shaping up to be any better for the GOP. One candidate in Virginia fought against making marital rape a crime because a woman was “sleeping in the same bed, she’s in a nightie.” Another in Illinois proclaimed that autism, dementia and destructive tornadoes were God’s punishment for abortions (and gay people). A GOP governor likened abortion to slavery in a State of the State address. The Republican House is pushing a bill that would require the IRS to audit abortions, because they can be claimed as medical expenses in tax returns.  

And then there was Mike Huckabee, claiming that Democrats were insulting women by “making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.” 

Ultimately, the more Republicans scare women with their abortion craziness, the better the chances those women will turn out and vote. Republicans have no problem getting their base to the polls; it is Democratic base voters — single women, Latinos, Asians, young voters and African-Americans — who are most likely to sit out midterm elections. 

So by highlighting abortion even more, the GOP motivates the Democratic base while reminding mainstream voters of Republicans’ outside-the-mainstream views — views that cost them Senate seats in red states in 2012. We can call that a win-win. 

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.