After the 2023 election, every GOP candidate for president at the third presidential debate should have been prepared with a response about their position on the issue of abortion. For Republicans, who supposedly advocate for a smaller federal government, the most straightforward response is precisely what the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson demands. The ruling placed abortion regulation firmly in the purview of state governments.
Still, two candidates on the stage were rushing to elevate the abortion debate back to the national level. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott used some favorite leftist memes about the pro-life movement in their responses, even though they came from two different positions.
Scott became the Republican caricature, offering up that his position was a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks. It is unclear how he expects a law like this to pass through the Senate. A 20-week ban was defeated in 2018, and Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) 15-week ban failed in 2022. Further, it is unclear whether a federal ban would survive a legal challenge after Dobbs.
However, the worst part of his statement was when he embraced a popular accusation the Left often makes about the pro-life movement. “We should not just be pro-life before the child is born, he said. “We should be pro-life after the child is born just as much.”
Some of the most dedicated pro-life activists work for crisis pregnancy centers like those in the PreBorn network. They help support the mother for up to two years after the baby is born and assist in facilitating adoption. Can we use more facilities? Sure. But pro-life activists staff and donate to these organizations to take care of mom and baby. Implying the movement does not take that seriously is insulting.
By contrast, Haley seemed to internalize the chatter on social media and in the mainstream press about the need for Republicans to moderate on the abortion issue. Within hours of the losses on an Ohio ballot measure and the Kentucky governorship, Haley advocated for reaching a consensus on pieces of the issue at the national level. It was bad enough to earn the Frank Luntz seal of approval.
Nikki Haley has the best Republican answer on abortion.
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) November 9, 2023
Perhaps Haley forgot that an abortion survivors protection act failed in the Senate in 2019. Democrats could not even vote to provide medical care to an infant born alive after a botched abortion. But Haley thinks there will be consensus on banning late-term abortion. There is a reason that when confronted, no Democrat will place a limit on the procedure. They have none, including effective infanticide.
Haley’s mealy-mouthed response about abortion being a personal issue for everyone and the extension of an olive branch to pro-abortion activists were terrible enough. She made it worse when she smeared the pro-life movement with a pro-abortion favorite: “Let’s make sure none of the state laws put a woman in jail or give her the death penalty for getting an abortion.”
There are no serious proposals anywhere to punish women who have an abortion criminally. Penalties are being levied on the providers. The addition of that boogeyman was as offensive as Governor Andy Beshear’s campaign implying that a 12-year-old victim of incest would not be able to have an abortion under nearly all the current heartbeat laws. It was disgusting, and Haley owes the movement an apology.
Two other candidates, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, had the correct responses. DeSantis acknowledged that abortion is a state-level issue without losing an opportunity to flash his pro-life credentials. He said that abortion is now a bottom-up issue and that the states will have different approaches.
“We’re better off when everybody counts. We’re better off when we can promote a culture of life. At the same time, I understand that some of these states are doing it a little bit different. Texas is not going to do it the same as New Hampshire. Iowa’s not necessarily going to do it the same as Virginia,” DeSantis asserted.
Christie also noted that Dobbs placed the issue at the state level and criticized candidates rushing to advocate for federal legislation. “For 50 years, conservative lawyers have been arguing the federal government should have absolutely nothing to do with this issue constitutionally because it is nowhere in the Constitution. And then Dobbs comes, and we finally gain that victory,” Christie emphasized. “Now we have people running to say, ‘Let’s short-circuit the states.”
Haley, Scott, and even Donald Trump need to stop granting the legacy media’s premise that a national stance on abortion is required. In a post-Roe world, nothing could be further from the truth. Texas, Georgia, Iowa, and Mississippi all re-elected the governors who signed heartbeat bills. In fact, in Georgia, it was not even an election issue. Joe Biden was.
Make the Democrats’ horrid foreign policy, disastrous economic policy, and deteriorating national security the primary issues in the 2024 race for the White House. They are the primary issues for most Americans.