image of a pro-choice sign and an anti-abortion sign with an official ballot image in the background
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Anti-abortion and right-wing media figures explain away GOP election losses by asserting a 15-week ban isn’t extreme enough

As Republicans scramble to find cohesive messaging on abortion, some on the right are claiming Americans don’t want a 15-week “compromise”

Following a string of Republican losses on Election Day, anti-abortion activists and media figures are rejecting the reality that abortion rights are extremely popular among voters, instead trying to pin Democratic victories on the notion that the 15-week abortion ban touted by Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin this election cycle wasn’t far-reaching enough. 

  • During this year’s elections, abortion rights were a major motivating factor driving voters to the polls in another round of major wins for reproductive rights

    • Ahead of Election Day, Youngkin promoted a potential 15-week abortion ban if voters elected GOP candidates to take control of the state Senate and hold on to control of the House of Delegates. Youngkin tried to frame a 15-week ban as a “reasonable” compromise to more extreme abortion policy like a six-week limit or a complete ban. [ABC News, 11/5/23]
    • Despite Youngkin’s suggestion that a “moderate” abortion stance could be the key to GOP electoral wins, voters in Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio favored abortion-supporting candidates and ballot measures. Democrats will now have control of both legislative chambers in Virginia; Kentucky reelected Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who relied on abortion messaging; and Ohio approved a ballot measure which would enshrine abortion rights in the state Constitution. [The New York Times, 11/8/23]
    • On the national level, Republican candidates for the 2024 presidential election remain divided on abortion policy. GOP frontrunner and former President Donald Trump has adopted a vague, inconsistent stance on anti-abortion policies, Asa Hutchinson has voiced support for a 15-week national ban, and Nikki Haley has claimed that she will support any anti-abortion legislation that can realistically reach the 60-vote threshold in the U.S. Senate. [CBS News, 9/18/23]

    Conservative pundits and activists are blaming GOP losses on candidates not being aggressive enough on abortion

    • Anti-abortion group Students for Life Action wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that a 15-week “compromise” on abortion amounts to “surrender” because most abortions occur before that point. The tweet also called on supporters to email Republican leaders to “demand that they reject false ‘compromises’ that will allow more than 9 out of 10 abortions to continue.” [Twitter/X, 11/13/23; Students for Life Action, accessed 11/15/23]
    • An op-ed from the anti-choice outlet LifeSiteNews claimed that “Youngkin’s 15-week abortion strategy was a dud” because the “decision to cast a moderate image on abortion does not work.” The author complained that “weak abortion stance also put pro-life Republicans in a bind” and suggested that “voters want bold leadership and bright lines, and Republicans should deliver that for them on the issue of abortion.” [LifeSiteNews, 11/8/23]
    • Students for Life of America leader Kristan Hawkins wrote, “We will never compromise for a ‘little’ abortion (15 weeks bans), defined by Glenn Youngkin.” In another tweet, Hawkins agreed with Rep. Bob Good (R-VA), who attributed GOP election losses in Virginia to the 15-week ban not going far enough. [Twitter/X, 11/12/23, 11/13/23]
    • Anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson tweeted “false” in response to being asked if Republicans could win elections only by pushing for a 15-week abortion ban. Johnson continued, “15 weeks is an arbitrary number that saves very few lives. We must demand better.” [Twitter/X, 11/8/23]
    • Daily Wire host Matt Walsh lamented the idea of Republicans embracing less extreme abortion stances, writing that it’s “not some brilliant new insight” and is instead representative of “the Republican Establishment ... losing pitifully.” [Twitter/X, 11/8/23]
    • Daily Signal reporter Mary Margaret Olohan agreed with Walsh, commenting that when Republican lawmakers “express willingness to moderate, why are we surprised when GOP loses?” [Twitter/X, 11/8/23]
    • On BlazeTV, host Steve Deace said that “there’s no middle to be found” on abortion policy. Deace spoke out against Haley’s abortion stance, continuing, “And yes, Nikki, you are being judged. It’s either you let them kill them all or you’re a terrible person and hateful. There's never been a middle ground. This strategy's never worked.” [BlazeTV, The Steve Deace Show, 11/9/23]