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How the GOP fixation on abortion could help Democrats retake the House

Jill Lawrence, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

Republicans are the gift that keeps on giving — to Democrats.

The GOP has a democracy problem, thanks to Donald Trump, and a competence problem, thanks to a tiny, shrinking House majority that repeatedly chooses Trump and failure over reality and governing. Now, thanks to their ascendant theological wing, Republicans have a rapidly metastasizing abortion problem that could tilt close races to Democrats across the country — even in blue states where abortion is legal and available.

The most recent test came in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, where Democrat Tom Suozzi flipped a House seat with a decisive Feb. 13 win in a special election to replace expelled Republican George Santos. About 72% of the district supports abortion rights, Suozzi pollster Mike Bocian recently told the New Republic’s Daily Blast podcast, but that didn’t guarantee voters would turn out.

“The challenge in New York and in California has been that while voters are very pro-choice,” he said, “they’re not really feeling like abortion is at risk in their states.” And so the campaign advertised heavily about the threat of a national abortion ban, which helped fuel Suozzi’s victory.

Three days after that election, the prospect of a national ban loomed even larger. The New York Times reported that Trump — the all-but-certain 2024 GOP nominee — privately favors a ban on abortions after 16 weeks’ gestation. He apparently chose that limit with the same scientific rigor he applied to evaluating ivermectin and bleach as COVID treatments: “It’s even. It’s four months.”

That is far from the only development supercharging the abortion debate and the stakes in this year’s elections. The U.S. Supreme Court is due to decide this year whether to limit the use of mifepristone, part of an FDA-approved two-pill combination that can be used at home and that accounts for more than half of the abortions in the country.

 

And now the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that frozen embryos created for in vitro fertilization are “extrauterine children” covered by state laws about wrongful death. The Legislature might act to protect IVF, but what about other states? Could antiabortion legislatures and courts make similar moves on frozen embryos?

Voters in blue states may think they have no role to play, but they’re wrong. As Democratic data guru Tom Bonier said in a tweet about Bocian’s comments: “This point about abortion rights is massive. The issue didn’t mobilize Dems in NY3 in ’22. By emphasizing the threat of a national ban in this race, they changed that.”

To see why it’s massive, look to California. Like New York, it has four Republican-held House seats that the Cook Political Report rates as pure toss-ups. That’s eight strong opportunities for Democrats to flip seats.

How close were some of those California races in 2022? GOP Rep. John Duarte beat Democrat Adam Gray by fewer than 600 votes in the Central Valley’s 13th Congressional District. They’re now headed for a rematch, with Duarte playing defense over abortion. Democrats are targeting him on his own votes to limit access and the broad assault on overall reproductive rights by “Duarte’s majority.”

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