A series of significant election losses have Republicans re-thinking the use of the “pro-life” label and searching for more specific language, according to a new report.
GOP senators told NBC News that data was presented during a closed-door meeting last week showing that voters were reacting differently to labels like “pro-life” and “pro-choice” than they have in the past.
“What intrigued me the most about the results was that ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ means something different now, that people see being pro-life as being against all abortions … at all levels,” GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told NBC News.
Steven Law, a former aide to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, presented the data.
Republicans have lost a series of elections since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade – most significantly on Election Night 2022 when Democrats held the Senate and overperformed in the House, even though the GOP captured a slim majority in that chamber. In August 2022, Kansas voters defeated a pro-life amendment. Voters in the traditionally conservative states of Kentucky and Montana also have rejected pro-life proposals.
In August of this year, Ohio voters defeated a measure that would have made it more difficult to amend the constitution. Although abortion was not technically on the ballot in the Buckeye State, the proposal was seen as an end-around to make it more difficult to pass a pro-choice amendment in November.
“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. So the conversation was mostly oriented around how voters think of those labels, that they’ve shifted. So if you’re going to talk about the issue, you need to be specific,” said Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri. “You can’t assume that everybody knows what it means. They probably don’t.”
Law encouraged senators in the room to be as specific as possible when discussing abortion, NBC News reports.
“People require more in-depth discussions; you can’t get away with a label anymore,” said GOP Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming. “What we’ve learned is you have to dive in and talk to people about very specifically where you are on that subject if you’re running for public office.”
GOP senators must be open with voters, Cramer said.
“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.’ Whatever your position is, articulate it; don’t try to fool anybody. That’s where you get in trouble,” Cramer concluded.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Stevan Ovicigor
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
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