Abortion rights supporters have extended their series of wins at the ballot box over the past two years.
Republican candidates in this week’s elections tried to reframe and moderate their positions on abortion while seeking to paint Democrats as too extreme on the issue.
Instead, the GOP found itself increasingly on the defensive in deep red and purple states alike, including Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia.
The results showed reproductive rights remains an energizing issue for voters more than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The series of losses have left Republicans frustrated and without a clear idea of how to move forward, as the issue shows no sign of waning heading into 2024.
“You have to … say, look, this isn’t working. We need to figure out not just new messaging, although I think that’s important, but in some cases it’s going to require new positions and messier compromises than we’ve been pushing for,” said Patrick Brown, a fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Abortion rights supporters’ got their biggest win in Ohio, where a ballot measure guaranteeing access to abortion up until fetal viability passed with 57 percent support. Republicans in the state used all the levers of power at their disposal to try to defeat the measure, but to no avail.
“Ohioans sent a message to the nation last night. Americans support abortion rights and will turn out to vote to protect these rights,” Veronica Ingham, the campaign manager for Ohioans For Reproductive Rights, told reporters on Wednesday.
When the topic of abortion eventually emerged during the third GOP presidential debate Wednesday, none of the candidates broke new ground in their answers, nor did they agree on how best to move ahead.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Republicans and abortion opponents must “do a better job on” ballot measures and referendums. But he didn’t offer any specific plans on exactly how to “do better.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) pushed several of his fellow 2024 rivals to back a national 15-week ban, though such a bill was introduced in the Senate last year and never advanced.