GOP Senate candidates scurry away from anti-abortion positions

How Republicans must miss those days before Donald Trump’s freshly seeded right-wing Supreme Court majority spit out its Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade and permanently injected the issue of reproductive rights directly into the heart of this nation’s political discourse.

Back then, Republicans could proudly display their “pro-life” bona fides on the front page of their websites, knowing it really wouldn’t make any difference since, well, abortion was still legal. No exceptions for people raped or maybe impregnated by an abusive relative? Not a problem! Support a 15-week, 10-week, heck, even a six-week ban. It’ll never happen, but sure, Mr. Christian extremist, we’ll take your vote—and your money! 

Then the world changed in an instant. Republicans glanced down at their news feeds on June 24, 2022, and politics as they’d known it simply ended.

Many of them didn’t realize it at the time. It took two years of humiliating losses at the ballot box, one after another, as citizens voted to preserve abortion rights in Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, California and Ohio. Then there were the governor’s races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, as pro-choice candidates kept coming out on top. Pro-choice voters flipped the Wisconsin Supreme Court too, and yanked away Republican legislative majorities in Virginia. Finally it began to sink in for Republicans that they had a big, big problem, and it wasn’t going away.

So, they began to panic, twisting themselves into knots to “reframe” or “modify” their positions. They began furiously scrubbing their websites, mouthing different words, and most of all, hoping no one would notice. But they were wrong. 

As reported by Jess Bidgood and Lisa Lerer, writing for the New York Times:

Republican candidates in all eight of the country’s most competitive Senate races have changed their approach on the issue of abortion, softening their rhetoric, shifting their positions and, in at least one case, embracing policies championed by Democrats.[…]

While the pivot is endemic across races in swing states, the most striking shifts have come from candidates who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate just two years ago in their home states, with abortion views that sounded very different.

Before pointing out some examples of this new Republican hypocrisy, it’s helpful to understand that the vehement pushback to Republicans’ draconian abortion policies we now see in state after state is not simply political. Rather, it cuts across party lines. 

That’s why these sad efforts by Republicans to “soften” their radical and reactionary positions won’t work. Because when voters who care about their reproductive destinies realize someone is trying to deceive them—particularly now, in this post-Roe environment—it just makes them more angry. So highlighting this deceitful behavior early—as Planned Parenthood did with a series of ads in the 2023 race for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, for example—seals the deal for such voters almost immediately. For these voters, Republicans’ advocacy for these radical, harmful, and sometimes deadly policies is bad enough. But being lied to about their real positions is absolutely infuriating.

Dave McCormick is one such liar. He’s running for Senate against Democrat Bob Casey in Pennsylvania. Here is a frame from his old website, before he scrubbed it:

McCormick knows that his “life begins at conception” position, his eager participation in anti-abortion rallies, and his advocacy for the so-called “unborn” has now become pure political poison in the voter-rich suburbs of Philadelphia, which he absolutely must win. So the Connecticut-based former hedge fund manager is now backtracking, and as reported by Sean Kitchen for The Keystone, repeatedly contradicting himself seemingly with every new interview he gives.

As Kitchen reports:

“I’m not in favor of any bans, federal bans, federal legislation. I’m in favor of the three exceptions. I’m for widely available contraception. I’m for supporting adoption in young families that are struggling. And I’m for restrictions on late term abortions,” McCormick said on the Dawn Stensland Show earlier this month.

As Kitchen points out, that makes no sense. McCormick says he’s not in favor of any “bans,” but then volunteers that he favors “exceptions.” Of course there are no “exceptions” unless a ban is already in place. And “banning abortions late in pregnancy”—whatever that means—is still, in fact, a ban. And none of this new blather is reconcilable with his now-scrubbed website, which declared “life begins at conception.”

As Kitchen notes, prior to that interview McCormick offered the same weasel language recently employed by Trump, saying he believes abortion should “be decided by the states.” States such as Florida, for example, which now bans abortion at six weeks, before many people realize they’re pregnant. Or Texas, which (thanks to the Dobbs decision) doesn’t allow any abortions at all, unless a doctor certifies that a pregnant person will die unless the procedure is performed.

This meaningless, “leave it to the states” mantra seems to be the consensus position for multiple swing-state Republican Senate hopefuls desperate to hide their actual positions from voters. As Bidgood and Lerer report in their Times article, Bernie Moreno, currently running in Ohio against Democrat Sherrod Brown, was very clear on his position in 2022.

From Moreno’s X feed (formerly Twitter):


Moreno opposed the Ohio’s “Issue 1” citizen-led effort to amend the state’s constitution and preserve abortion rights. At that time he complained (falsely) that the ballot initiative would allow a rapist to “force” his victim to have an abortion.

Except now, as Bidgood and Lerer explain, Moreno has apparently altered his no exceptions position and now says he favors a 15-week ban with “reasonable” exceptions. His communications director also says Moreno believes the matter should really be “decided at the state level,” which seems to be Republican code for “please don’t ask me about my prior positions.”

Another prevaricator is Sam Brown, currently the leading Republican candidate challenging Democrat Jacky Rosen in Nevada. As reported by Axios, Brown was not only a member of but the leader of the Nevada branch of the “Faith and Freedom Coalition.” This is not simply just another anti-abortion organization, but one of the most hardline of them all, lending its support to a Texas six-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. As helpfully preserved by the Nevada state Democratic party, Brown once provided his position on abortion in response to a voter questionnaire:

​That means Brown would only allow someone to obtain an abortion if they risked dying, the same law that now exists in Texas. No other abortions allowed—ever—under any circumstances. 

But as Bidgood and Lerer report, Brown, whose own wife chose to have an abortion for career reasons, now says the decision “is now correctly left at the state level.” In other words, he endorses the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs which allowed states to restrict or wholly outlaw abortion. Just don’t ask him about his prior statements or his leadership of an anti-abortion group of fanatics, please.

Then there’s Kari Lake, hoping to defeat Democrat Ruben Gallego in Arizona. Lake once bragged about being vetted for a job with the Alliance Defending Freedom, the same organization that supported the state’s archaic 1864 abortion law and represented the plaintiffs in the Dobbs case, successfully overturning Roe v. Wade. Lake has shape-shifted so many times now it’s impossible to know what she believes. As Bidgood and Lerer note, Lake once called the 1864 statute a “great law,” and said she supported a six-week abortion ban. Now, however, Lake says, women should have “more choices,” and she (now) opposes a federal ban.

Which is it, then? Nobody knows, apparently. But please stop asking. 

Finally, there is former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who evidently claims to have made a 180-degree turnaround from his prior record as governor championing abortion restrictions. Hogan is running for Senate against progressive Democrat Angela Alsobrooks, and evidently thinks he can fool voters into believing he’s now pro-choice. In mostly Democratic Maryland, of course, he has no other choice. But he offers no good reason why any voters should accept his remarkable “turnaround,” except perhaps to conclude that he has no principles whatsoever. 

As Bidgood and Lerer report, in other swing states Republican Senate hopefuls like Tim Sheehy in Montana, Mike Rogers in Michigan, and Eric Hovde in Wisconsin are busily backpedaling their prior extreme positions, hoping that their constituents don’t pay attention to their earlier campaigns to further restrict and control abortion. Ted Cruz of Texas is also getting in on this act, sponsoring toothless legislation that purports to preserve access to IVF treatment in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision to “personify” frozen embryos, rendering facilities and physicians who store and implant them subject to the state’s criminal code. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that this deceitful behavior is anything but more evidence of their unfitness for office in the first place.

The renowned author and poet Maya Angelou famously said “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Many people, however, are unfamiliar with the entire quote which is “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. People know themselves much better than you do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are.”

These Republicans have all warmly embraced anti-abortion extremism in the past. Whether it was out of genuine belief or political convenience, that’s what they are. What they want now is power, and they’re clearly prepared to say or do anything to attain it, no matter whose rights they’ve trampled on or simply disregarded. The only reason they’ve changed their position is because they feel they have to. They deserve absolutely no credit or consideration for that, and they certainly don’t deserve any votes for it.


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