Abcarian: A big GOP ‘uh-oh’: Republicans try to hide anti-abortion truths

It’s fair to say I am a single-issue voter. If a candidate does not support the right to safe and legal abortion, they can kiss my vote goodbye.

Reproductive freedom is that important to me. Women must have autonomy over their own bodies and the right to choose their own fates and economic futures. My mantra is simple: If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.

And yet, I don’t begrudge politicians who once opposed abortion but changed their minds.

It’s good news, for instance, that shopping mall developer Rick Caruso, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, wholeheartedly supports Gov. Newsom’s proposal to enshrine reproductive freedom in the state’s Constitution.

Yes, Caruso was roundly knocked by Planned Parenthood in May for having donated nearly a million dollars to rabidly antiabortion policymakers over the years, but now that he wants to govern a deep blue city, I guess he’s seen the light. I’m still not a fan, but good for him.

Likewise, President Joe Biden, a flagrantly devout Catholic, has said for years that he personally opposes abortion, but supports a woman’s right to choose. In the past, he has squirmed, trying to navigate a fine line by refusing to support federal funding for abortions.

Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned by our supremely out-of-touch Supreme Court, however, Biden is unapologetically an abortion rights supporter. He has pushed for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would basically codify the right to abortion in federal law. It passed in the House — with no Republican votes, naturally — and failed in the Senate because it did not achieve the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster.

The Supreme Court’s cavalier overturning of a major, nearly 50-year-old precedent, the incredible torrent of unintended consequences the decision has unleashed and the existential threat to democracy posed by Republican embrace of Trump’s big election lie have probably done more to energize Democratic midterm voters than even Trump’s first two chaotic years in office did, when the House flipped from red to blue.

As a result, gung-ho antiabortion Republican incumbents are dialing down their rhetoric, if not embracing the wishful hope that abortion is not an important issue for their constituents.

The Washington Post dubbed the phenomenon “the great Republican abortion backtrack.”

No kidding.

Abortion rights advocates’ rage is real. And there is nothing like anger to get voters to the polls.

A special election in Kansas, where voters resoundingly rejected an attempt to outlaw abortion in the state, plus unexpectedly good Democratic showings in four special House elections this summer, have suddenly changed the calculation on abortion for Republican candidates.

This is surely why at least three embattled California Republican incumbents who signed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, which would effectively ban abortion nationwide, have gone mum on the topic. Those representatives are Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita, Michelle Steel of Seal Beach and David Valadao of Hanford.

Thanks to widespread distaste for Trump, their three districts have swung between red and blue in the last few years. The California trio has every reason to avoid the topic of abortion. They are completely out of step with their state.

In California, according to a recent Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, 71% say they would vote yes on Proposition 1, the state constitutional amendment that would enshrine the right to abortion and access to contraceptives. And more than two-thirds of the state’s voters disapprove of the decision to overturn Roe.

My guess is it won’t be the widespread approval of Biden’s palpable legislative successes — on climate change, healthcare and student debt — that will bring Democrats success in November. It will be rage over Republican efforts to turn women into second-class citizens again.

Robin Abcarian is a Los Angeles Times columnist. ©2022 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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