Where Things Stand: Anti-Abortion Group’s New Memo Highlights GOPers Squirming On Roe

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WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: Abortion-rights demonstrators gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building on May 10, 2022 in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats plan take up a bill May 11 that would codify abortion rig... WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: Abortion-rights demonstrators gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building on May 10, 2022 in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats plan take up a bill May 11 that would codify abortion rights in federal law, but it is all but certain to come up short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican fillibuster. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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In case you missed it, it’s worth looking at this memo that the big anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America sent to Republican lawmakers last week outlining messaging points and policy proposals for the party to push in the wake of Roe’s demise.

The messaging tight-rope they’re walking to avoid fully dancing on Roe’s grave remains interesting.

Axios obtained the memo and published it yesterday. One of the most striking components of the memo was its focus on encouraging lawmakers in Congress to not depend on state legislatures entirely to pass abortion restrictions post-Roe. The group pushed Republicans to talk about things Congress could do as well — like passing national restrictions on the procedure (such as a six or 15-week ban) if the GOP takes back the House and Senate after the Midterms. The group claimed there is some polling to support the idea that Americans are okay with some restrictions.

Before getting into how Republicans should message on potential gestational restrictions ahead of Midterms, the group also encouraged GOPers to continue referring to Democrats’ legislative efforts to codify abortion rights into law as radical and “extreme.” The group offered a messaging approach on how to criticize what Democrats are doing currently, arguing that they’re only holding hearings and pushing new legislation after Roe’s overturning to “set traps” and get Republicans to “say damaging things” — as if they need help from Democrats in that realm.

The group referred to Democrats’ Women’s Health Protection Action as the “Abortion On- Demand Until Birth Act” — a phrase some Republicans are already using — and highlighted efforts to get all 50 senators on board with a filibuster carveout for abortions rights as a sign of just how badly Democrats want to abort babies at birth (I don’t need to say it, but I will: Democrats don’t want to do that). The House passed the WHPA on Friday, but it doesn’t have the votes in the Senate — Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) already opposed a version of the legislation earlier this year.

The memo also acknowledged the national unpopularity of Roe’s overturning among Americans across the political spectrum, arguing, essentially, that Americans are just reacting to a deviation from precedent, but will eventually get on board with restrictions because: “The results are more encouraging when you dig a bit deeper, as they clearly demonstrate that the majority of Americans support limits that were not allowed under Roe,” the group claims.

But the most interesting part of the memo is this bit of squirming, presented just after the group outlined what kind of federal legislation Republicans should push — which was: “SBA Pro-Life America supports the most ambitious legislation that can achieve consensus, whether it may be a heartbeat limit, a pain-capable limit, or a similarly protective gestational limit,” the memo said — if/when the GOP takes back Congress:

“The Dobbs decision means that the American people are able to decide the issue of abortion through their elected officials in the states and in Congress. It does NOT mean a nationwide ban on abortion,” the memo reminds Republicans to articulate to voters. It’s an interesting point of tension that we’ve been tracking for some time.

While anti-abortion activists are certainly not content to just let the states decide, that’s the language Republicans have used to downplay the severity of Roe’s overturning during an election year when control of Congress is up in the air. It was only after the Supreme Court decision on Roe was leaked that some Republicans began flirting with the idea of passing national abortion restrictions via Congress.

The tight-rope walking continues.

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