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Republicans Recast Abortion Stance, Wary of Voter Backlash

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WASHINGTON — Republicans have spent many years attacking the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, but with the toppling of Roe v. Wade seemingly imminent, their leaders in Congress and across the country have grown suddenly quiet on the difficulty, a part of a bid to avoid a backlash against their party ahead of the midterm elections.

In the times after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that may overturn the 50-year-old precedent, Republicans in Congress have notably shunned taking a victory lap for having helped to put in the conservative majority that has paved the best way for such an consequence.

At the same time as a few of their counterparts on the state level race forward with far-reaching abortion bans that might even affect some methods of contraception, Republicans appear determined to recast their position on the difficulty as considered one of moderation and avert the gaze of voters away from their anti-abortion-rights agenda.

“You wish — it seems to me, excuse the lecture — to think about what the news is today,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said on Tuesday. “Not a leaked draft however the incontrovertible fact that the draft was leaked.”

The Republicans’ caution reflects the potential for the eventual ruling to vary the midterm political landscape. Their leaders and candidates have built a campaign to reclaim control of the House and Senate around inflation, economic uncertainty, crime, border control and American doubts that President Biden, who’s deeply unpopular, can right the ship.

Now the prospect of eliminating abortion rights has added a tectonic change to American life into the combination, threatening to upend that focus.

Democrats have signaled that they plan to make use of the approaching decision as a rallying cry for voters to reject Republicans, portraying its implications as vast and unacceptable.

“That is a problem that’s defining for this country today, and if the American people don’t rise up for equality for each American at this moment in time, we will probably be undermining a right to privacy in greater than this context,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of Latest York. She raised the specter of a conservative Supreme Court going after gay marriage, consensual same-sex relations and even contraception if the choice stands.

Republicans, in contrast, consider their candidates’ job straight away is to stay focused on the economy and never allow every other issue — particularly one that might alienate suburban independent voters whose backing they should win congressional majorities — to distract them.

“Big picture, tell me what the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will probably be and if anything has improved with gas and groceries, and I’ll inform you the outcomes,” said Corry Bliss, a veteran strategist who advises Republican candidates. “That’s what the midterms are going to be about — period, end of dialogue.”

Commentary by Times Opinion writers and columnists on the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Republicans are talking about abortion, just not openly. A document circulated by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and obtained by Axios urged candidates to be low-key concerning the issue, with a post-Roe America looming as early as next month.

“Abortion must be avoided as much as possible,” the document advised candidates to say. “States must have the flexibleness to implement reasonable restrictions.”

Republicans don’t want to throw doctors and girls in jail, the document continued. They definitely don’t want to remove contraception. And if any party is being extreme, it instructed Republicans to argue, it’s the Democrats, who won’t accept even modest restrictions on abortion that the majority Americans support.

The approach is calculated to use the incontrovertible fact that Democrats, outraged concerning the ruling yet powerless to do anything about it, are planning a symbolic vote that puts their party on the record opposing almost any abortion limits. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats will try — and sure fail — to take up laws that may not only codify the correct to an abortion, but additionally nullify restrictions which have passed muster with the courts.

“The Democrats are going to make this easy for us,” said Mallory Carroll, vp of communications at Susan B. Anthony List, which works to elect officials who oppose abortion rights. She called the Democrats’ Women’s Health Protection Act “far outside the American mainstream.”

And “mainstream” is how the Republican campaign arms want their candidates to present themselves — as soft-spoken, compassionate, “consensus builders,” because the talking points put it.

“I’m pro-life, but this isn’t about political labels,” the documents suggest Republican candidates say. “I feel all Americans want us to welcome every child into the world with open arms. But in case you disagree with me, my door’s all the time open.”

Governors like Brian Kemp of Georgia and Ron DeSantis of Florida have said relatively little on the difficulty because the draft opinion got here out.

Even former President Donald J. Trump, who campaigned in 2016 on appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe, has shunned gloating.

“No one knows exactly what it represents,” he told Politico, calling the leak of the opinion “a terrible thing for the court and for the country.

“We’ll discuss it after we discover out what the definitive version is,” he said.

It continues to be possible that the court won’t go so far as the draft. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed that the leak was authentic but cautioned that the choice was not final.

Still, the issue for Republican leaders in Washington who need to downplay the implications of the potential ruling is the very clear message coming from their party’s state legislators concerning the severe restrictions many would enact if there have been not a right to an abortion within the Structure.

On Wednesday, lawmakers in Louisiana pushed forward laws that may do precisely what the Washington talking points deny: grant constitutional rights to “all unborn children from the moment of fertilization,” and classify abortion as homicide. Such a law could, in truth, put women and doctors in prison and ban certain forms of contraception, similar to IUDs, that block implantation of a fertilized egg.

The State of Roe v. Wade

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What’s Roe v. Wade? Roe v. Wade is a landmark Supreme court decision that legalized abortion across america. The 7-2 ruling was announced on Jan. 22, 1973. Justice Harry A. Blackmun, a modest Midwestern Republican and a defender of the correct to abortion, wrote the bulk opinion.

What was the case about? The ruling struck down laws in lots of states that had barred abortion, declaring that they might not ban the procedure before the purpose at which a fetus can survive outside the womb. That time, generally known as fetal viability, was around 28 weeks when Roe was decided. Today, most experts estimate it to be about 23 or 24 weeks.

What else did the case do? Roe v. Wade created a framework to control abortion regulation based on the trimesters of pregnancy. In the primary trimester, it allowed almost no regulations. Within the second, it allowed regulations to guard women’s health. Within the third, it allowed states to ban abortions as long as exceptions were made to guard the life and health of the mother. In 1992, the court tossed that framework, while affirming Roe’s essential holding.

Republicans in South Dakota, Indiana and Nebraska have called for special sessions of their legislatures to maneuver on strict abortion bans as soon as a final decision is announced.

And for all of the caution Republican strategists might advise, there continues to be the eagerness of the difficulty. Latest Hampshire State Representative Susan DeLemus was filmed responding to abortion-rights protesters on the State Capitol in Concord, N.H., on Thursday by screaming that they were “murderers.”

To a certain extent, opponents of abortion say they are surely in a moment of unreality. Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said she had been preparing for night’s sleep in her Albuquerque home when the news first broke of the draft opinion. She said she thought someone had pulled a prank on the reporters.

Even now, she said she is cautious.

“What got here out earlier this week is three months old,” she said. “I definitely hope it’s the ultimate draft, but I’ve been told it isn’t. It’s still possible a justice or two has modified positions.”

Republicans say their restraint on the difficulty is smart. A near-total abortion ban has been in place in Texas for eight months, and seemingly no political price has been paid to date.

State Representative Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat, said he worries that in Republican states which were living with steadily rising restrictions on reproductive rights, the response to overturning Roe could possibly be as muted because it has been in Texas, and that in Democratic states, voters will probably be reassured that their rights are protected.

“This has been done so incrementally, it’s like there’s a learned helplessness. We’ve taken a lot abuse; what’s somewhat more?” he said, likening women in states like Texas to the frog within the boiling pot of water. “I hope that’s not the case.”

One other factor mitigating the backlash may be the rising popularity of long-term contraception, similar to IUDs, and the increased access to contraception normally, which has helped lower the nation’s abortion rate in recent times and given more women a way of reproductive security.

A decade-old study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that the proportion of ladies in childbearing years using long-acting, reversible contraception had risen steadily, from 2.4 percent in 2002 to eight.5 percent in 2009 to 11.6 percent in 2012. The figure is about 12 percent now, said Dr. Nisha Verma, a fellow at the school and a gynecologist in Washington, D.C.

“The necessity for abortion won’t ever go away,” Dr. Verma said, but, she added, “We’ve definitely seen that individuals have been in a position to take more control of their reproductive health.”

One other study in JAMA Internal Medicine found a 21.6 percent jump in using such contraception within the months after the 2016 election of Mr. Trump, together with his vows to put in justices who would overturn Roe.

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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