Nobody in politics came away from the 2022 elections thinking, “If Republicans had only been more pro-life….”
High hopes of a “red wave” in the midterms had Conservative pundits predicting a 30-to 100-seat pickup in Congress. Instead, Republicans entered the 118th Congress with a net gain of nine seats, a slim majority in the House, and one fewer seat as the minority party in the Senate.
Pundits rightly blamed the June SCOTUS decision overturning a constitutional right to abortion. States now decide their own abortion laws. After decades campaigning against Roe v. Wade and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Republicans finally got their wish, and while they celebrated the moral victory, abortion quickly proved to be an election albatross.
In the governors races, Democrats flipped three red seats, all against Trump-endorsed candidates, including two blowouts where abortion access weighed heavy on voters’ minds.
In Massachusetts, Geoff Diehl lost by 30 points after heralding the SCOTUS ruling and promising to amend the state’s abortion laws.
In Maryland, Dan Cox, a state House member who tried a dozen times to restrict abortion access, lost by 32 points. His opponent, Democrat Wes Moore, campaigned on enshrining abortion in the state constitution.
Joe Lombardo, the only Republican to flip a blue seat, did so by campaigning in support of Nevada’s existing abortion law (up to 24 weeks) and promising not to prosecute women who seek an abortion.
Unless tanking their entire platform on a single issue is the goal, there’s a lesson here that Republicans would be foolish to ignore.
Polls both nationally and in New Mexico show that a majority of voters support legalized abortion. That’s the part the media shares. What they don’t highlight is the fact that a majority also supports limits to when an abortion should be performed.
According to an Albuquerque Journal’s August 2022 poll, a combined 59% of respondents supported either outlawing abortion outright (12%), limiting it to “cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s life is in danger,” (25%) or enacting “some limitations” (22%).
Supporting abortion “with limitations” is the middle-ground that Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti sought when he ran in 2022. Personally, he said, he opposed abortion. But as a governor he would let the voters decide. They did, handing Lujan Grisham an easy re-election.
The problem wasn’t policy. It was messaging.
“Pro-life” is a losing label that sows distrust among moderates and Independents, both necessary constituencies in a predominantly Democrat state.
It’s also factually inaccurate.
If you support the right to abortion in some cases, that’s a pro-choice position. Accept it. If New Mexico is like the rest of the country, then a solid majority of voters want common-sense abortion laws: legal access with limits on late-term abortions and exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and the mother’s health.
The next Republican candidate for governor needs to campaign on a platform that reflects the values of the majority of New Mexicans. That majority, here and nationally, is pro-choice with some limitations.