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Abortion enemies seek vows of 2024 GOP hopeful


Leading anti-abortion groups, fresh from their historic victory with the demise of Roe against Wadeare drawing up plans for a new goal in the 2024 presidential election: get the Republican nominee to pledge to support nationwide restrictions on abortion.

One of the most influential groups, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, is likely to ask candidates to sign a pledge supporting a federal minimum limit on abortion no later than 15 weeks gestation.

“If a primary GOP candidate fails to muster the moral courage to endorse a gestational age of at least 15 weeks, then he does not deserve to be president of the United States,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of SBA Pro-Life America, who was instrumental in enforcing anti-abortion pledges made by former President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, is looking into holding candidate forums or debates where the issue of abortion would be central. And Students for Life Action is developing a survey asking candidates whether they will pledge to appoint anti-abortion cabinet members, such as in the Ministries of Justice and Health; if they signed legislation to restrict abortion early in pregnancy; their stances on abortion pills and more.

“Our biggest challenge right now is making sure everyone is informed and that they understand that we expect substantial action,” said Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life Action. She added: “We want to make sure every candidate knows they have to be ready to make their case for life.”

The Supreme Court ruling last June that struck down a constitutional protection of abortion rights means such questions are no longer purely hypothetical. If Republicans win enough seats in the House and Senate in future elections, they could potentially cross some federal abortion limit — and activists are determined to pin down presidential candidates on whether and to what extent they agree.

Exactly where to land on the issue may not be easy for all GOP presidential candidates. Former President Donald Trump jumped first in the race, and while he put a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, he frustrated anti-abortion groups for comments that blamed GOP losses last November on “the abortion issue,” particularly candidates who resisted against exceptions for rape and incest. Trump applauded the Supreme Court’s decision last summer but did not respond to questions about his stance on national restrictions on abortion.

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Abortion rights groups won big victories in last year’s midterm elections, even in some conservative-leaning states, and want to build on that momentum. Democrats argue the results show the public is on their side, and nearly two-thirds of adults say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to a new study from the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan group that advocates the attitudes of Americans toward abortion surveyed last year.

Anti-abortion leaders blame the interim results on some Republican candidates who did not portray Democrats as extreme or who shied away from discussing abortion — and are now warning incoming GOP presidential candidates to take firm stances on the issue. They were particularly critical of Mehmet Oz, a Republican who lost his Senate race in Pennsylvania, saying that “the federal government shouldn’t be involved in how states make their abortion decisions,” instead citing local politicians.

Most of the Republican field is expected to be united in the fight against abortion. But divisions are likely to arise when zooming in on specific policies, such as how early in pregnancy to restrict abortion, what exceptions to allow, and whether to leave some of those decisions to states.

Even anti-abortion groups differ in how far to push GOP candidates, with some saying they’d be on board with a candidate expressing support for a 15-week limit and others wanting to push for at least a “heartbeat” ban after fetal heart activity is detected, usually around six weeks. Such limits are unlikely to be passed by Congress anytime soon, as such a bill would need the support of a majority of House legislators and 60 senators unless a future Republican-controlled Senate dumped the filibuster for the hot button issue.

In addition to likely asking candidates to sign a pledge, Dannenfelser said her group aims to at least be involved in candidate forums in Iowa and South Carolina. The group has long reviewed candidates’ files and public statements on abortion, spending millions in each election cycle, though it usually doesn’t endorse primaries, with the exception of Rick Santorum in 2012. Armed with a budget that is expected to be ” Significantly more than the $78 million from the previous election cycle, the group is planning its ground game in presidential and senate warring states, including traditional knocking on the door, digital ads and mailers.

Both the Heritage Foundation and its political arm, Heritage Action, want to hear presidential candidates speaking out for what abortion opponents call “heartbeat legislation,” or a ban on abortion even earlier in pregnancy. Roger Severino, a vice president at the Heritage Foundation, said the group will urge candidates to be clear about their positions and try to host candidate debates or forums as a venue for them to do so.

“We see the dynamics on the Republican side as a race to see who will be the most articulate spokesperson for life and actually make the policy proposals to save the most unborn lives,” said Severino, who led the federal health department’s civilian division. . law firm during the Trump administration.

Meanwhile, Students for Life Action is working on a survey to send to candidates who have again announced their presidential ambitions. The questions will likely include whether the candidate would be willing to sign bills banning early pregnancy abortion, how they would crack down on abortion pills, and whether they would shut down Planned Parenthood. The group may also ask questions about protecting healthcare workers and pharmacists who have conscientious objection to abortion, as well as questions about judicial and cabinet appointments.

State-level groups could also step up the pressure. The Family Foundation of Virginia typically doesn’t host presidential forums since it is one of the later primary states, but it is discussing it this year, President Victoria Cobb said. She added that she is “not convinced that there is only one path that pro-lifers will accept”, but that candidates should be “willing to push the issue forward”. Texas Values ​​Action typically publishes a questionnaire for candidates, and last year’s midterm elections included several questions about abortion.

“Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that abortion is not a constitutional right, there will be a lot of focus on how a candidate has handled the pro-life issue in his or her state or if she is in another elected position at a different level,” said Jonathan Saenz, the president of Texas Values ​​Action, whose group typically endorses candidates in the primaries and likely will do so in the 2024 presidential election cycle. “Their track record will be watched very closely.”

Most of these groups are still fleshing out their plans as it is early in the election cycle, but the emerging press campaign underlines that abortion will be a major issue in the GOP primary. The Republican National Committee wants candidates to seize the post-Roe moment by passing a resolution in January formally urging GOP lawmakers to “offend in the 2024 election cycle.” Democratic pollsters say their party has a few messages: portraying this position as extreme and arguing that the government should be kept out of Americans’ private medical decisions.

Only two other candidates besides Trump have announced they are running for president in what is expected to be a crowded Republican field.

Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley announced her candidacy last month. As governor of South Carolina, she signed into law in 2016 banning the procedure at 20 weeks gestation unless the mother’s life is in danger or a doctor determines that the fetus cannot survive outside the womb. In a recent Today Show interview, she didn’t say whether she would support a 15-week limit. “I don’t think that’s been put on the table.” The campaign did not respond to specific questions about whether Haley supports certain national limits.

Wealthy entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has announced a long-term offer. “Vivek is pro-life. As a constitutional matter, he fully agrees with Dobbs’ outcome and believes this is an issue for the states, not the federal government,” Tricia McLaughlin, a senior adviser to the nominee, wrote in an email.

But plenty of others are making strides toward a possible presidential bid.

That includes former Vice President Mike Pence, who supported anti-abortion measures as a member of the House and governor of Indiana. In November, he said he would have supported Senator Lindsey O. Graham’s (RS.C.) legislation to ban most abortions after 15 weeks had he been in Congress. And his organization, Advancing American Freedom, is calling on Congress to push for anti-abortion laws, including “heartbeat” legislation and legislation that defines a fetus as a person and declares it has the same rights as other people.

“Others may have to sign a pledge to convince voters of their pro-life credentials, but Mike Pence has been fighting to defend the unborn for more than 30 years and his track record on life is unparalleled,” wrote an advisor to Pennies in an email.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has privately indicated his intention to run and last year he signed a cap on most abortions after 15 weeks. Now Republican lawmakers in his state are pushing to limit the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, a bill DeSantis has indicated he will sign. DeSantis representatives did not respond to questions about his stance on national abortion restrictions.

Since the summer, anti-abortion groups have been trying to build on their 49-year crusade to Roe against Wadesaying this was just the beginning, as abortion rights groups work to counter state-level abortion bans.

At a gala this month in Naples, Fla., Hawkins told a crowd of dozens of Students for Life Action donors and others that the fight over abortion was far from over. Roe against Wade if ever seemed an “insurmountable challenge”.

“I can’t ignore the moment we’re in,” she said. “The battlefield is bigger than ever before.”

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