Facing 2024 elections, GOP strategists have come to understand the widespread anger spurred by their opposition to letting women control their own bodies. The issue is galvanizing voters, so Republicans want to seek a new name for the pro-life movement. Democrats, if they are wise, won’t let them get away with it. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, wrote Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. And Republican pro-life policies will stink just as much if the GOP changes its terminology.
Some 20 states have passed laws buoying up abortion access. But abortion is now banned in 14 states, with no exceptions for rape and incest in 11. Other states have imposed increasingly narrow time frames within which abortion may be available. In some situations, that time frame kicks in before a woman may know she is pregnant. Some GOP candidates for President and Congress have said they support a federal ban on abortion, which is even more extreme than the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.
The horrors these laws are inflicting defy description. A 13-year-old Mississippi child was raped and forced to carry the baby to term because her family couldn’t afford to get her to Chicago, the closest place abortion was available. The new mom is a seventh grader. A 10-year-old Ohio rape victim went to Indiana to get an abortion. Indiana’s attorney general claimed the doctor involved should be punished, and the Indiana Medical Licensing Board reprimanded and fined the physician. A National Right to Life attorney insisted the little girl would have benefited from having borne the baby and should have been forced to carry the baby to term. Meanwhile, ob-gyns handling high-risk pregnancies in red states are reportedly closing their practices, creating reproductive health care deserts in their wake. Texas law requires a pregnant woman whose fetus is no longer viable to carry the dead fetus to term. Need I go on?
Polls have consistently shown that over 60 percent of voters oppose the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. That rises to as much as 80 percent among female voters aged 18-49, those obviously of child-bearing age. They are the ones who have the most at stake in the Republican efforts to deprive them of the right to make their own health care decisions and control their own bodies.
For 30+ years, right-wing groups have spent billions shaping the language of the political debate. Framing their cause as ” Pro-Life,” they’ve claimed the moral high ground, denouncing “pro-choice” advocates as uncaring proponents of abortion on demand.
The so-called “pro-life” movement unctuously asserts it takes to heart the best interests of mother and child. Now some supporters urge calling their cause “pro baby.” But their acolytes in Congress regularly vote against increasing money for day care, child nutritional programs, early childhood education and more. All of which reminds us of the immortal words of a former Massachusetts 4th district Congressman, who famously observed of the pro-life movement, that “from their perspective, life begins at conception and ends at birth.”
If anxious Republican pols and campaign strategists want to rebrand their position with honesty, I suggest they rename their anti-choice measures “forced pregnancy” laws. And it’s long overdue for the news media to change their style books accordingly.