Texas abortion case reveals conundrum for Republicans in 2024


Republican presidential candidates and threatened incumbents were once again forced to answer complicated questions about abortion rights this past week, as a case in Texas showed why the issue that dominated the 2022 and 2023 elections is poised to take center stage. role next year.

The Texas Supreme Court on Monday denied Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two, the right to terminate a pregnancy that she and her doctors said threatened her life and future fertility. The decision exposed the political reality Republicans face as they try to navigate between their conservative anti-abortion base and a general electorate that is more supportive of abortion rights. As red states implement a set of new restrictions on the vetted exemptions procedure, real-world events continue to confound their efforts to stick with and sell voters an effective message on the issue.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down Roe v. Wade’s longstanding federal guarantee of abortion rights has led to nearly every Republican-controlled state house debating whether and when during pregnancy to ban abortion and with what exceptions to be resolved. That led to a cascade of legal challenges testing the constitutionality and limits of those bans and renewed attacks by Democrats eager to paint Republicans as undermining women’s health.

President Joe Biden’s campaign, citing the Texas case, said it plans to make abortion a major focus as it seeks to contrast the Republican front-runner in 2024.

“We’re going to make sure the American people know that Donald Trump is guilty,” Biden campaign spokesman Michael Tyler told CNN. “If Trump is re-elected, we will face the reality of a nightmare scenario — and that is a national abortion ban.”

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear provided a model for his fellow Democrats with his re-election in a deep red state last month. His campaign aired an ad featuring a young woman discussing the trauma of being raped and pregnant by her stepfather at the age of 12.

“I speak openly because women and girls should have opportunities. Daniel Cameron wouldn’t give us one,” Hadley Duvall, 21, said in the direct-to-camera ad, referring to Bescher’s Republican opponent.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to take up another abortion-related case could also have political ramifications next year. Justices will consider whether to limit access to a widely used abortion drug — even in states where the procedure is still allowed. The case concerns the drug mifepristone, which – in combination with another drug – is one of the most common abortion methods in the United States.

The move drew more concern from some Republicans, with vulnerable Rep. Mike Lawler of New York saying the Supreme Court “needs to recede.”

During the 2024 presidential campaign, Republicans vying to become the primary alternative to Trump’s GOP have carefully tried to find a middle ground between the party base and general election voters.

Asked about the Texas case at a CNN town hall Tuesday night, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed a six-week state abortion ban in April, said Republicans should “approach these issues with compassion because these are very difficult issues.” .

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley tried to sidestep questions about whether she would sign a federal abortion ban into law, citing the low likelihood that such a ban would win a Senate vote. She said Texas needs to rethink its approach to circumstances like the one Cox faced.

“That’s exactly why I said you have to show compassion and humanize the situation. We don’t want any woman to sit there and deal with a rare situation and have to deliver a baby in those circumstances, just like we don’t want women having an abortion at 37, 38, 39 weeks,” Haley said on Tuesday while campaigning in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday in Bedford, New Hampshire, mocked the language Haley used to answer such tough questions.

“She wouldn’t answer your question.” But she would give me the feeling that she cares. She really cares,” he said at the town hall.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, whose recent endorsement of Haley was a big boon to the former South Carolina governor’s campaign, said Friday that the Texas case was “terrible.”

“Legislators are going to have to go back to Texas and say we need to fix this law because this is a problem, and I think we all agree that this should not happen,” Sununu told CNN

New Hampshire’s governor has ruled out banning abortion at the federal level, defending Haley’s position.

“Today, Republicans may have 45 pro-life senators. They’re never going to have 60 pro-life senators,” he said, alluding to the votes needed to defeat the senatorial scam. “It hasn’t happened in 100 years. So it’s beyond hypothetical. So that’s not going to happen.”

Christie, meanwhile, sharply criticized Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a pro-Trump conservative who asked the state Supreme Court to reject Cox’s emergency abortion bid.

The former New Jersey governor told The Associated Press that the Texas case shows “why so many people don’t believe some members of my party on this issue, because they’re either completely adamant about it, no matter what the facts are, or they say nice words, but unwilling to take a stand.

Trump — whose appointment of three Supreme Court justices paved the way for overturning Roe v. Wade — skipped the kind of engagement with voters and rivals that debates and town halls usually prompt. However, in recent weeks he has described many in the Republican Party as overzealous on abortion.

Abortion rights advocates, meanwhile, will be looking to repeat the success of recent ballot measures in 2024. In November, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to an abortion. A year earlier, after Roe fell, the abortion-rights side swept the ballot in states ranging from deep-blue California and Vermont to swing state Michigan to ruby-red Kansas, Kentucky and Montana.

People react after the passage of Proposition 1, which establishes a constitutional right to abortion in Ohio, during an election night watch party at Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. (Maddie McGarvey/The New York Times)

Abortion rights groups are now mounting similar efforts in similar states, including Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Maryland, Missouri, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Those referendums could shape the 2024 election results in those states after a series of elections — including previous ballot measures, a state Supreme Court election in Wisconsin earlier this year, Bescher’s re-election in Kentucky and state legislatures races in Virginia this fall—showed that moderate voters generally support abortion rights.

A coalition of abortion rights supporters in Florida said Friday it is on track to collect enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment on next year’s ballot.

The Florida Department of Elections reports that the group Floridians Protecting Freedom has collected 753,305 of the 891,523 signatures it needs to qualify for the ballot before the Feb. 1 deadline.

“We don’t want to be overconfident, but we feel as positive as we can feel at this point in the campaign,” said Lauren Brenzel, the group’s campaign director. “We want to make sure we get as many signatures as possible.”

The voting summary of the proposed amendment, which requires 60% of the vote to be approved, reads: “No law shall prohibit, sanction, delay or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the health of the patient, as is determined by the patient’s health care provider.”

However, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, asked the state Supreme Court — where five of the seven members were appointed by DeSantis — to strike down the amendment. Moody argued that supporters have not defined the word “viability” and are trying to “mislead” voters.

In Florida, the state Supreme Court must rule separately on the 15-week abortion ban. If that law is upheld, then a six-week ban — which DeSantis signed in April to replace the previous 15-week ban — would go into effect.

It’s the law that DeSantis defended in a CNN town hall, noting the limited exceptions it allows in cases of rape, incest, pregnancies that threaten the mother’s life and fatal birth defects.

“I signed legislation that includes this. And I understand that they are very difficult. I understand that these things get a lot of press attention,” he said. “But it’s a very small percentage that these exemptions cover. There are many other situations in which we have the opportunity to realize really good human potential. And we worked to protect as many lives as possible in Florida.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis participates in a CNN town hall in Des Moines, Iowa on December 12, 2023.

Brenzel argued that exceptions for situations such as sexual assault and life-threatening pregnancies “are not reasonable. They are not based on any best care guidelines.

Brenzel pointed to the Texas case in an interview, saying it “continues to highlight what a dangerous situation is being created.”

Florida, she said, has seen similar horrific cases before. She pointed to Deborah Dorbert, whose son Milo, born without kidneys, died in her arms after she failed to have an abortion.

She also pointed to Anya Cook, a Florida woman who was sent home from a hospital with a rare and potentially life-threatening complication. She then gave birth to her nearly 16-week-old fetus and within a day lost nearly half the blood in her body, The Washington Post reported, citing medical records.

“When you allow politicians to interfere in private medical decisions,” Brenzel said, “this is what happens.”

CNN’s Arith John, Manu Raju, Alison Main and David Wright contributed to this report.

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