Feb 27, 2024  |  
 | Remer,MN
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Ryan King, Breaking Politics Reporter

NextImg:Republicans stumble through dicey week of abortion politics

Abortion took center stage this week and seemingly caught many Republicans flat-footed after a Texas judge ruled in favor of freezing approval of mifepristone.

Prominent Republicans largely grew quiet and sidestepped questions on the development as they navigated the crossfire between a base eager to curtail abortion access and general election voters wary of hard-line positions on abortion.


Despite some softening, most were sure to reaffirm that they classify themselves as anti-abortion.

Party defections

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) turned heads this week when she joined a few liberal colleagues in urging the Biden administration to ignore the court ruling on abortion.

“It’s not up to us to decide as legislators, or even, you know, as the court system whether this is the right drug to use or not,” Mace told CNN Monday. “I agree with ignoring it at this point. … This thing should just be thrown out, quite frankly.”

A week ago, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled that the Food and Drug Administration's approval of mifepristone, part of a two-drug regimen to induce abortion, should be suspended. The ruling was at odds with a similar one out of Washington.

By Friday, the Supreme Court stepped in with a stay on that order, setting the stage for a high court ruling on the matter.

Tightrope on the 2024 trail

Republicans on the campaign trail were peppered with questions about the ruling and did not appear eager to answer. At a stop in New Hampshire, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who announced an exploratory committee last week, gave an unclear answer when asked about his thoughts on the ruling.

“I would just simply say that the courts are on their way to solve the problem of these latest rulings as contradictory rulings from different judges. And we are starting to see that play out,” Scott said. “We're allowing the states to make decisions. But can we really not be in that category with China and North Korea as relates to abortion?“

He later affirmed that he would sign the most anti-abortion rights legislation that could get through Congress if he was president.

Fellow South Carolinian former Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) appeared to oppose the ruling while stumping in Iowa.

"What I mean is this is a personal issue for women and for men," Haley said, the Des Moines Register reported. "It needs to be treated with the respect that it should. I don't want unelected judges deciding something this personal."

One Republican who cheered the decision was former Vice President Mike Pence.

“Life won again today," Pence said. "When it approved chemical abortions on demand, the FDA acted carelessly and with blatant disregard for human life and the wellbeing of American women, and today’s ruling fixed a 20-year wrong."

Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) said that the GOP's position on abortion could spell electoral doom for the party going forward. Sununu is considering a 2024 run.

“Any conversation about banning abortion or limiting it nationwide is an electoral disaster for the Republicans,” Sununu said, per the Associated Press. “The Republican Party has an inability to move off this issue in a way that doesn’t scare the heck out the average voter, the independent voter, the younger generation of voters."

DeSantis's pronounced silence

Ahead of his expected 2024 campaign, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has been crisscrossing the country, touting his record in Florida. He recently signed on Thursday the Heartbeat Protection Act, which bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can happen as early as six weeks of gestation.

But that law went unmentioned throughout DeSantis's speeches at Liberty University and a New Hampshire Republican Party dinner Friday.

Many observers also noted how DeSantis signed the law in a private ceremony instead of a blockbuster public spectacle akin to what he had for signing the 15-week abortion ban last year.

At the moment, the Heartbeat Protection Act, which features exceptions for cases such as risk of the life of a mother and rape, is in limbo due to litigation over the 15-week ban.


The overturn of Roe v. Wade last year preceded a lackluster midterm election showing for Republicans, who were expected to ride a red wave of victory across the board. Furthering concerns about abortion being a liability was the recent Wisconsin state Supreme Court race earlier this month.

Milwaukee Judge Janet Protasiewicz scored a double-digit victory on April 4 against conservative contender Daniel Kelly, despite past elections being much closer. The defeat for Republicans will likely have significant repercussions for redistricting and possibly the 2024 election.