Republicans May Be Shooting Themselves in the Foot Over Abortion


Here’s an interesting recent poll question:

There’s not much need to tell you I just made this up. If it were real, this bill would get 0 percent support. Everyone who saw it would be immediately appalled at the idea that someone could be casually murdered if they were born as a result of rape or incest.

But if you ask this same question about abortion, this is roughly what you get. Very strong majorities, even among Republicans, support an exception to an abortion ban for rape and incest. Among other things, this is why I don’t believe most people who claim to believe that abortion is murder. If you support a rape or incest exception, it’s pretty obvious you don’t really think of abortion as murder.

So where am I going with this? Right here, with Paul Waldman’s observation that the Republican Party’s move to the extreme right on abortion is getting much more public than in the past:

One moment in the debate that may have struck some as odd occurred when Marco Rubio got a question about him supporting exceptions for rape and incest victims to abortion bans, and he insisted that he supports no such thing. Mike Huckabee declared that “I think the next president ought to invoke the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution now that we clearly know that that baby inside the mother’s womb is a person at the moment of conception.” Scott Walker went even further, stating his opposition to exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman (“I’ve said many a time that that unborn child can be protected, and there are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of that mother”).

In the past, most Republicans have fudged this issue. The more honest among them admit that it’s mostly for political reasons: in their hearts they don’t support any exceptions to an abortion ban, but they realize the broader public does. So the lesser evil is to do what’s necessary to move public opinion, which is the only way to eventually get to a full-blown ban on abortion.

But that fudging is apparently getting less tenable these days, and it’s forcing Republican candidates to take public positions that they know are very unpopular. If this starts to spread, it could be bad news for the incrementalists, who correctly believe that such an extreme position is likely to lose them a lot of support. I wonder what would happen in the next debate if one of the moderators asked one of those show-your-hands questions to the entire field about whether they support a rape or incest exception to an abortion ban? We know where Rubio and Walker are. But what about the rest of them?

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