RNC urges GOP candidates to ‘go on offense’ on abortion in 2024

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After GOP underperformance in November’s midterm elections, the Republican National Committee is doubling down on its antiabortion stance, formally urging GOP lawmakers and campaigns to “go on offense in the 2024 election cycle” and to pass the strictest antiabortion legislation possible.

At its winter meeting, the RNC passed a resolution that called on Republicans to push “laws that acknowledge the beating hearts and experiences of pain in the unborn,” referring to “heartbeat” bans on abortions, which would outlaw the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy — before many people realize they are pregnant.

The resolution, which was passed Friday, alluded to Republicans’ disappointing performance in the November elections, months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but appeared to place the blame on GOP candidates who did not sufficiently publicize their antiabortion views.

The Supreme Court ruled in June 2022 that a constitutional right to abortion, which had been in place for nearly 50 years, no longer existed.

“Instead of fighting back and exposing Democratic extremism on abortion, many Republican candidates failed to remind Americans of our proud heritage of challenging slavery, segregation, and the forces eroding the family and the sanctity of human life, thereby allowing Democrats to define our longtime position,” the RNC resolution stated.

Democrats seize on abortion ruling in midterms as Republicans tread carefully

The resolution came as Ronna McDaniel won her fourth term as RNC chairwoman, fending off challenger Harmeet Dhillon amid calls for new leadership after the GOP’s lackluster midterm results in an election year that typically would have favored the party not in power. Republicans, who had promised a “red wave” in November’s elections, captured only a narrow majority in the House and lost one seat in the Senate.

Even before November, signs of a nationwide backlash to the overturning of Roe had already begun to emerge after the Supreme Court’s decision. Candidates who supported abortion rights over-performed in special elections over the summer, while key battleground states saw a spike in Democratic and independent women registering to vote.

Kansas voters soundly rejected a referendum that would have allowed state lawmakers to regulate abortion, and South Carolina Republicans fell short in their bid for a near-total abortion ban in the state. And although Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a bill in September that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy nationwide, many Republican candidates tried to avoid discussing a possible national abortion ban on the campaign trail.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, criticized such candidates for hesitating to talk about abortion.

“The RNC’s pro-life resolution sends a bold message to GOP candidates, campaigns and consultants that to win in 2024 they must stay on offense by drawing a strong contrast and exposing Democratic extremism,” Dannenfelser said in a statement Monday, days after Republicans passed the resolution at their meeting in Dana Point, Calif., last week.

In 2022, too many GOP candidates used the ‘Ostrich Strategy’ in which they put their heads in the sand, pretended the issue of abortion didn’t exist, and let Democrats spend hundreds of millions of dollars distorting their pro-life positions and defining them as extremists,” she added.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Monday seized on the RNC’s resolution, calling it “extreme” and “out-of-touch.”

“The Republican Party’s renewed vows to destroy reproductive freedom and threaten women’s livelihoods just raised the stakes for voters in 2024, and made every vulnerable House Republican more at risk of losing,” DCCC spokeswoman Nebeyatt Betre said in a statement.

Caroline Kitchener and Isaac Arnsdorf contributed to this report.

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