There’s no question that abortion rights have been under attack since Republicans gained power in the 2010 midterm elections. From the state level to the federal, Republicans have launched a spirited and largely successful bid to roll back abortion rights for women, at least at the state level, while bragging about their goals nationally.
One might think that the GOP had broad support for these goals. But like their other positions, from the economy to LGBT rights to immigration, it turns out that the GOP is swimming against the tide. Indeed, Republicans may be at least partly responsible for a surge in support for choice. On Roe v. Wade‘s 40th anniversary, abortion rights enjoy more support than ever.
54 percent of American adults support abortion rights in all or most cases, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. What’s more, fully 70 percent of adults oppose overturning Roe, with only 24 percent of Americans supporting an end to protection for abortion rights.
This is the highest level of support for abortion rights since polling began in 1989, during the Planned Parenthood v. Casey hearing at the Supreme Court. Support was sharply up among Democrats, Latinos and college-educated women, and even Republicans showed a slight uptick in support.
Certainly, some credit goes to pro-choice groups, who have spent the last two years battling one crisis after another, as Republican-controlled legislatures passed a series of anti-choice laws. But no small amount of credit must go to the Republicans themselves, who have been almost cartoonishly evil in prosecuting the anti-choice fight.
Certainly, statements by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock during the campaign were not helpful — women do not appreciate being told that they should simply accept pregnancy of a consequence of rape, nor that a rape that results in pregnancy is proof that rape wasn’t “legitimate.” While those statements hurt, they hurt precisely because the Republican Party has adopted a hard line on abortion — Akin’s phrasing was just a hash of an anti-abortion law sponsored by GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, which would eliminate funding for care for women who are not victims of “forcible” rape.
Moreover, many of the regulations that have passed in the name of ending abortion have been awful in and of themselves. The “vaginal probe” law, which passed in Texas and nearly passed in Virginia, added a level of indignity to the abortion process that outraged even moderates on the abortion issue. Republicans’ continued use of regulations to try to shut down abortion clinics also made it clear that they were doing precisely what they claimed to oppose — using the power of the government to restrict and regulate behavior.
Of course, there’s one other, simple reason the anti-choice side is losing support: it’s identified with the Republican Party. While Republicans have been awful spokesmen for opposition to abortion (I’d use spokespeople, but let’s face it…), simply by being associated with Republicans is bad for those who oppose abortion. When someone’s wrong on pretty much everything, it makes you question yourself when you agree with them.
While support for abortion rights is strong, that doesn’t mean that all is well so long as Roe is law. Ask any pro-choice activist, and they can rattle off a dozen places where basic access to abortion is under full assault. Still, it appears that after two generations, a significant majority of Americans has accepted that abortion rights are here to stay, and a solid majority think that’s a good thing. Once again, the GOP is on the wrong side of history.