". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13

Commentary

How Republicans Can Win Again in the Post-Roe Landscape

May 31, 2024

This election year, Republicans are struggling to find their footing when it comes to abortion. As they play defense on the Left’s terms, they forget the one ostensibly pro-life policy that American voters universally support — expanding care for pregnant mothers in need.

By coalescing around a hopeful and compassionate vision for pregnant women in America, candidates can mobilize, rather than abandon, their base and appeal to traditionally elusive median voter blocs.

Let’s start with the Republican base. The evangelical vote is closely tied to many conservative policy issues. While their priorities may shift from election to election, one priority remains consistent — protecting vulnerable children in the womb from abortion. It’s always been the core mobilizing issue for evangelical and Catholic voters and therefore, core to the GOP platform.

Significantly, the white evangelical demographic bloc represents an influential 30% of the voter base yet accounts for 17% of the overall electorate. Happily for the GOP, this group also overwhelmingly votes Republican — or at least, it has in the past. Should their support fragment or weaken, the evangelical vote could easily make or break an election. Even a slight demobilization at the polls in a battleground state like Georgia could swing an entire election.

Republicans risk everything in 2024 if they abandon the central issue of their core constituency. While the party experienced a disappointing 2022 midterm performance, the fear-mongering around the issue of life was misguided. Why? Republicans lost when they ran away from the issue and won when they stood fast, articulating a bold and winsome pro-life message.

Reneging now on protecting children in the womb from abortion, an issue the party has championed for decades, appears to voters as cowardly and unprincipled at best and Machiavellian at worst.

And Republican candidates should be aware that they are not fooling anyone — least of all the median voters they are vying for — by pretending they no longer care about vulnerable children in the womb. As they backpedal, candidates fall into the trap laid by the Left — being defensively cornered into debating at which gestational age they are most comfortable allowing mass child death. This is a game no one wins, least of all Americans.

This election cycle is missing one key and unifying principle that transcends demographics, party affiliation and voting blocs. One issue unites Americans no matter where they stand on abortion — compassionate care for pregnant women in need.

If Republicans want to win, it is time to lead, not hide. Americans thirst for a hopeful and caring future for both mothers and their unborn children. By coalescing around a principled and courageous vision for both, Republicans have the opportunity to unite Americans and their base instead of continued divulgence into chaos and mistrust.

Critical median voting blocs are also motivated by a hopeful and compelling pro-woman, pro-child, and pro-family political vision. While Americans may have complicated attitudes toward abortion, they do not think of it as a desirable good. Instead, many Americans are rightly concerned about the financial and social circumstances that might lead a woman to consider abortion. Now is the moment for candidates to appeal to voters who universally care about women in need by positing policies to address the economic and medical needs of vulnerable women as part of a broader pro-life platform.

Swing and even traditionally Democratic voters such as minority groups and suburban women support paid family leave policies, better pregnancy care, and postpartum Medicaid extensions. There is widespread support across party lines for extending Medicaid postpartum coverage and better maternal care policies.

More than eight-in-10 Americans support or strongly support pregnancy centers, and even most Democrats support public funding of pregnancy centers.

Black Protestant voters, while overwhelmingly Democratic, are also strongly and idiosyncratically morally conservative. Only half of black Democrats said they found abortion morally acceptable, even if they supported it politically. Meanwhile, Hispanic evangelical voters have shown they reject legal abortion in almost all cases and disapprove of candidates who support late-term abortion.

Hispanic Protestants overall support protections for children in the womb, and Hispanic voters whose primary language is Spanish are much more likely to vote for pro-life policies.

Finally, much has been made about appealing to suburban female voters. A close read of poll numbers reveals more nuance on the issue among women than is commonly reported. Among older women — those more likely to vote — support for legal abortion drops.

Older women are more likely than young women to believe abortion is morally wrong and far more likely to vote. Support for legal abortion in all or most cases drops by 10% between women under the age of 30 and women ages 30-49 and declines with each successive generation. Nearly half of women age 65 and older say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Furthermore, women nationwide overwhelmingly support better maternity leave policies and pregnancy care. This is yet another opportunity for pro-life leaders to present a compelling vision of protections for children in the womb and care for vulnerable mothers.

These groups also have something in common — they are disproportionately targeted and impacted by the abortion industry. What unites them politically? A compassionate, hopeful, and holistic policy vision to care for women when they need it most.

Now more than ever, our political leaders have the opportunity to cast not only a winsome vision but a concrete plan to expand a safety net of services and care for vulnerable pregnant mothers.

Thinking beyond laws that protect life, the pro-life movement’s legacy has been and always will be about mothers and their children. It has been and always will be a political cause with the potential to motivate any voter seriously invested in the preservation of children in the womb, the strength of the family, and the protection of vulnerable women.

People want to vote for women. People want to vote for the protection of children and families. People want to vote for the defense and cultivation of things they love.

So, give them a vision to support. Republican hopefuls: Propose real changes. Voters know the difference.

Focus your platforms on strong protections for children in the womb and policies for mothers like paid parental leave, extending Medicaid coverage to postpartum mothers, and expanding Medicaid coverage of pregnancy care. Increase funding for pregnancy centers that meet vulnerable women where they are, and promote government partnerships with nonprofits and maternity homes that provide these women with life-changing material assistance. Ensure that women know of the range of public and private support systems that are readily available when they most need them.

Opposing abortion has won in the past. Overcoming it can win today.

Chelsey Youman is the Texas State Director and National Legislative Advisor for Human Coalition Action.