Will the pro-life label, claimed as a standard by a majority of conservatives, serve the Grand Old Party (GOP) to the point of causing it to lose votes in the elections? The question arises seriously among Republican senators.
In early September 2023, a closed meeting was held at the Capitol. The head of the Senate Republicans presented the results of a confidential opinion survey tending to show that the right-wing electorate no longer reacts as before to the terms pro-life or pro-choice designating respectively opponents and supporters of abortion.
“What intrigued me most about the results is that pro-choice and pro-life are two phrases that mean something different in the minds of people who view being pro-life as a absolute position against abortion whatever the situation,” responded North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer.
For Josh Hawley, senator from Missouri, there should be more precision talking about the question of abortion: “Many voters think [‘pro-life’] means you’re for no exceptions in favor of abortion ever, ever, and ‘pro-choice’ now can mean any number of things.”
“(Our meeting at the Capitol) was mostly oriented around how voters think of those labels, that they have shifted.” Hawley, who has been vocal about his pro-life beliefs during his time as a senator, argued that “if you’re going to talk about the issue, you need to be specific.”
Same story with Senator Cynthia Lummis, of Wyoming, who stated that voters “require more in-depth discussions,” and “you can’t get away with a label anymore. What we’ve learned is that you have to dive in and talk to people very specifically about where you are on that subject if you’re running for public office.”
A position that Senator Kevin Cramer summarizes as follows: “I think it’s more of a ‘I’m pro-life but’. . . or it’s ‘I care deeply about the mother and the children, and we should always have compassion. But I believe that after 15 weeks where the child can feel pain, they should be protected.’”
In short, an American version of “on the other hand” that the French know well.
At the origin of this reflection launched by the Republican Party on Capitol Hill, are the surprising results of the mid-term elections in 2022 which were far from living up to what the GOP strategists had predicted, the Democrats having exceeded all projections in this area.
Analysts were quick to attribute these results to a generally negative reception by the electorate of the historic repeal of Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court a few weeks earlier.
A large-scale opinion survey conducted in June 2022 by the Pew Research Center tends to show that 61% of Americans are currently in favor of legalizing abortion at least in most cases. But if we consider the Republican electorate, the trend is reversed, because 60% of those questioned say they are opposed to abortion in all cases.
The dilemma – or rather the puzzle – is this: either Republican strategists maintain the current course and the question of the increasing erosion of their electorate arises during the next elections; or they decide, conversely, to soften their position on abortion at the risk of cutting themselves off from their base.