Right-wing media struggle to grapple with the issue of abortion after Wisconsin Supreme Court election loss

Ann Coulter: “Please stop pushing strict limits on abortion, or there will be no Republicans left”

On the heels of a big loss for Republicans in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race last Tuesday, right-wing media across multiple platforms are coming to terms with abortion as a losing issue for the right, calling it a “vulnerability” and questioning the GOP’s messaging on the topic.  

On Tuesday, liberal Judge Janet Protasiewicz ended 15 years of conservative reign over the state’s Supreme Court with an 11-point victory that largely focused on the issue of abortion. 

In 2022, abortion was ranked as one of the top issues for voters across the country, and states including Michigan, Vermont, and California have voted to enshrine protections for abortion rights into law. Kansas and Kentucky rejected conservative efforts to amend their state constitutions to exclude the right to an abortion, while an initiative failed in Montana to declare infants who were supposedly born alive after abortions “legal persons” and require that they be provided with life-sustaining care. 

Similar sentiments have echoed through conservative media, with many citing the topic of abortion as a “messaging issue” for Republicans. 

  • On Wednesday, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel took to Fox News and addressed Republican losses on Tuesday head-on, saying, “When you're losing by 10 points, there is a messaging issue, and abortion is still an issue, and we can't allow the Democrats to define Republicans and put millions of dollars up in lies and have it go unanswered, because the lies become the truth if they go unanswered.” She went on to add, “I'm a suburban woman. I know this is an issue. I hear it with my friends, with my young daughter. This is not an issue that’s going away for our party in a post-Dobbs world, and we can't put our head in the sand and think it's going to heading in 2024.” 
  • The next day on the same Fox program, Fox contributor Kellyanne Conway agreed with McDaniel on the issue of messaging, saying, “There’s no question,” and “Ronna and I are both 100% pro-life, but we're having a hard time, especially with young people, assuring them that what is being peddled by the left is not true.” She went on to drive the point home, saying, “Ronna is correct on the messaging piece. I just don't think the pro-life movement of which I'm a member has figured out how best to assure people that they won't be denied something that's important to them.”
  • Last week, the policy director for the far-right anti-trans group American Principles Project went viral for a Twitter thread saying that Republicans should back Senator Lindsay Graham’s (R-SC) 15- week abortion bill, positing it as some sort of moderate position. He noted the loss in Wisconsin, adding, “Ego checks need to happen now. It’s do or die time.”
  • On Fox News, anchor Bret Baier said Republicans are “losing on the abortion issue” with Generation Z, calling the topic “a vulnerability” with young voters.
  • A caller on Fox’s Brian Kilmeade’s radio show said Republicans “shot themselves in the foot” in the midterm elections for trying to ban all abortions rather than just late-term abortions “unless they’re just looking to be a permanent minority in this country.” Kilmeade responded by saying, “They don’t know how to message it. You’re right about that. There is no question about that.” 
  • The night of the election, Ann Coulter tweeted her frustration with Republicans who continue to support strict anti-abortion policies after the fall of Roe v. Wade. Coulter wrote, “The demand for anti-abortion legislation just cost Republicans another crucial race, " pleading, “Please stop pushing strict limits on abortion, or there will be no Republicans left.” 
  • On her podcast, Megyn Kelly mentioned Coulter’s opposition to “the overzealous abortion restrictions” and said, “I know a lot of conservative-leaning women who would have gone to the polls and voted for that liberal judge to say, today I'm voting liberal because that is an issue that is important to me.” She also went on to add that “the Republican Party has, let's face it, done a piss poor job since Dobbs of coming up with a national strategy, which means state by state. You know, you can't go ‘one uniform policy’ like just banned, banned, banned everywhere, that's not going to work.”
  • In the same episode, Kelly said that “with abortion on the ballot in the way it is, it's going to be a lot of GOP losses unless they get a better message. You can't have a total ban of abortion in a state like Wisconsin, and the voters just said so.”
  • Kimberly A. Strassel made this point abundantly clear in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on April 6, calling out Republicans’ “glaring abortion problem.” Recommending a political middle ground, she noted: “Conservatives need to decide if they want GOP majorities that will enact common-sense protections, or Democratic takeovers that will open the abortion floodgates.”
  • A similar sentiment was expressed in the conservative Washington Examiner in a piece Thursday titled “Abortion helped sink conservatives in pivotal Wisconsin Supreme Court election.” In it, one GOP consultant interviewed called the issue of abortion the Republican Party’s “kryptonite” and warned that, as the Examiner summarized, “the GOP needs to get on the same page or it will end in another Wisconsin disaster.”