From left: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Why Republicans’ Surrender on Abortion Could Cost Them the Election . . . Again


From left: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
From left: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

On the abortion issue, things could not have gone much better for Democrats in 2012.

Following Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin’s now infamous comments on “legitimate rape,” the Democratic Party and its pro-abortion allies went into attack mode, working to tie Akin’s words to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and down-ballot Republican candidates. The conventional Republican response was to retreat and change the subject, attempting to call a truce on the issue and focus on other topics. Romney even went so far as to run a TV ad that fall touting his support for abortions under certain exceptions and for contraception.

The result of the GOP’s “truce strategy” was a disaster. By avoiding talking about abortion and exclusively playing defense, Republicans allowed Democrats to control the narrative and brand the GOP position as “extreme” without an effective rebuttal. By surrendering rather than fighting, Romney and his fellow Republicans played right into the Democrats’ hands and significantly contributed to their own 2012 defeat.

And now, in 2016, the same story may be playing out all over again.

Republicans have already had another “Todd Akin moment”: Donald Trump’s remarks at a town hall last March that women obtaining abortions would have to face “some form of punishment” if abortion were to be banned. And Democrats and their allies have already pounced, using the comments as part of a campaign to once again brand Republicans as extreme. A few months ago, Planned Parenthood teamed up with a pro-Hillary super PAC to attack Trump for the remarks, and today, NARAL Pro-Choice America announced it would be launching ads targeting nine GOP senate candidates and using Trump’s words against them.

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And how are Republicans responding? Trump has seemingly tried his best to avoid the issue since that fateful town hall, most notably waiting several days after the recent Whole Woman’s Health Supreme Court ruling to offer just a limited, halfhearted response. And as for the senate candidates, GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak recently offered some familiar advice: “They need to ensure the social issues don’t become the main issue in their individual races. They’d much rather focus on the economy and national security where the political terrain is better.” In other words, don’t engage and change the subject. Where have we heard that before?

Meanwhile, Democrats are continuing to push their advantage, advancing an agenda more radically pro-abortion than any in recent memory – so radical, in fact, that one Democratic senator called a plank of his own party’s platform “crazy.” Although Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party support taxpayer funding of abortion, polling shows an overwhelming 70 percent of Americans oppose it. And while the Democratic Party officially opposes all laws “imped[ing] a woman’s access to abortion,” 81 percent of Americans think it should be restricted to the first trimester at the latest.

With Democrats so clearly out of step with the rest of the country on such a critical issue, why do Republicans continue to avoid talking about it?

While calling a truce on abortion may be a convenient strategy coming from a Washington consulting class that cares little for the issue to begin with, it makes absolutely no sense from a standpoint of principles or politics. And it is almost guaranteed to deliver the same result for Republicans in 2016 as it did four years earlier: resounding defeat.

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Paul Dupont is the managing editor for

Paul Dupont

Paul Dupont is editor of

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