Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Republicans have been repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to grappling with the highly charged issue of abortion. They did it again in Ohio this month.
The GOP tried to pull a fast one, asking voters in the Buckeye State to approve a measure that would have raised the threshold to amend the state’s constitution from a simple majority to 60% support. Ohio GOP lawmakers who put the measure on the ballot smoke-screened their real intent by pitching it as a bid to firewall the amendment process from deep-pocketed special interests.
The gambit didn’t work. It clearly was all about torpedoing a ballot initiative slated for November that would beef up Ohio’s state constitution with an amendment protecting abortion rights. Turnout among Ohioans for the vote was massive — almost twice as large as it was for last year’s primaries for governor and legislative races. And instead of neutralizing the push to codify abortion rights, the GOP measure emboldened it by forging a coalition of liberal Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans who believe in a woman’s right to choose.
Now Republicans may see Ohio join California, Michigan and Vermont as states that have amended their constitutions to protect abortion rights. In 10 other states, pro-abortion rights advocates are trying to get abortion protection amendments added to state constitutions.
When will the GOP learn?
The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe in June 2022 upheaved the American political landscape in a way that continues to confound Republicans and imperil their chances for success in 2024. It may well be that the incongruous coalition of liberals, swing voters and moderate Republicans behind the GOP defeat in Ohio serves as a microcosm for what the party faces next year.
And as long as the GOP tries to double down on its campaign to curb or eradicate abortion rights state by state, it can expect the backlash against that effort to steadily grow.
Previous recent wake-up calls have gone unheeded by Republicans.
A year ago, voters in Kansas, a state that Republicans dominate, overwhelmingly defeated a constitutional amendment referendum that would have allowed the state legislature to outlaw abortion. In Wisconsin, a state Supreme Court candidate who relied on her embrace of abortion rights as the anchor to her campaign garnered enough votes in a spring election to secure a spot on the court.
And in Kentucky, where the state legislature has banned abortions, voters last year sent a message to lawmakers by rejecting a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have denied any right to abortion in the deeply red state.
Our position on abortion is clear. After the overturning of Roe, we wrote, “A woman’s right to make her own reproductive health decisions shouldn’t be subjected to political trade winds.” We agreed with Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who in their dissent in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization wrote that under Roe v. Wade, “the government could not control a woman’s body or the course of a woman’s life: It could not determine what the woman’s future would be.”
We called for Springfield to begin looking into the viability of a state constitutional amendment codifying abortion rights in Illinois. Democrats control both state legislative chambers as well as the Governor’s Mansion, but Illinois’ status as a pro-abortion rights state could be endangered by a future General Assembly run by a majority of conservative, anti-abortion rights lawmakers. Embedding abortion rights protection in the state constitution firewalls Illinois from that possibility.
Nationally, the Republican Party finds itself caught between its base, which adamantly opposes abortion, and the majority of Americans, who believe in a woman’s right to choose. With a pivotal 2024 election on the horizon, that’s an unenviable place for the GOP to be, a place that puts the party on a path toward defeat.
The way forward for Republicans is clear. The GOP must moderate its stance on abortion and find a place under its tent for suburbanites, center-right Republicans and independents who do not espouse Trumpian toxicity and refuse to countenance the party’s all-out, guns-blazing attack on the pro-abortion rights segment of America. If it fails to do that, the GOP in 2024 may find itself in an even more ominous state of disarray than it finds itself right now.