With poll numbers placing him 14th out of 15 Republican presidential candidates with measurable results, Senator Lindsey Graham needed to do something to get attention. His answer was to push for the Senate to adopt a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, a move that might endear him to many evangelicals and other conservatives who might otherwise be inclined to think the foreign policy hawk something of a squish on domestic issues. That’s infuriated other Republican senators as well as some party establishment figures that think the mere mention of abortion is a dangerous distraction for the GOP. From their point of view, Graham’s insistence on getting a vote on the measure is an unforced error that will give Democrats an excuse to rerun their fake “war on women” campaign theme in 2016 and possibly cost the Republicans the Senate or a chance at winning the White House. But while this is a political maneuver with no chance of becoming law, liberals are wrong to think they sweep the country by defending the right to abort infants that may well be viable outside the womb. As much as the left may think the word “abortion” is a rallying cry that will help them make political hay under any circumstances, the truth about late-term procedures is not as much of a political winner as they think.
The assumption on the left is that any mention of abortion is a gift that will allow them to recreate the Todd Akin incident in which the Missouri GOP senate nominee threw away a likely Republican pickup and tarnished the party’s brand around the nation. Should a prominent Republican lose his mind and say something as stupid as Akin’s bizarre comments about rape and pregnancy, Democrats would be right to think it would be a political bonanza. But waiting for another such gaffe was a poor strategy in 2014 and isn’t likely to be any more successful in 2016.
But liberals still think they can drum up another “war on women” scare so long as anyone on the right is saying something about abortion. That feeling is fueled by a recent Gallup poll that showed that for the first time in seven years, more Americans call themselves “pro-choice” rather than “pro-life” when it comes to abortion by a 50 to 44 percent margin. That probably reflects what is something akin to a consensus that abortion should be legal in the early months of pregnancy. But the notion that this extends to other more controversial aspects of abortion is almost certainly a misnomer.
Polls have consistently showed that late term abortions have little support among the public. The same Gallup poll that made headlines about a pro-choice majority also showed that only 26 percent of Americans believed it should be legal under all circumstances. A Marist poll from earlier this year dove deeper into the question and came up with results that showed that only 16 percent of respondents were prepared to back late-term abortions.
No one should be shocked by this, least of all readers of liberal newspapers like the New York Times which reported last month that the New England Journal of Medicine had published a study showing that given adequate care, after 20 weeks an infant had a chance of survival outside of the womb. Seen in that light, abortion after 20 weeks in the absence of a need to save the life of the mother, strikes reasonable persons as something akin to infanticide, not a matter of protecting personal choice. That became abundantly clear in the gruesome murder case of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion clinic owner who not only butchered women with unsafe late-term procedures and killed children who had been born alive.
No one in the GOP should underestimate the willingness of Democrats to distort and demagogue these issues or to twist them into rhetorical constructs that are set up to make Republicans resemble Akin-like troglodytes. But if Democrats really want to go to battle on a narrowly and carefully constructed bill looking to ban something that disgusts the overwhelming majority of Americans, liberal and conservative alike, then they are welcome to try.
Getting a vote on a late-term abortion bill won’t transform Lindsey Graham into a first tier candidate. Nor should Republicans think concentrating on social issues to the determent of stands on bread-and-butter economic matters and Obama’s disastrous foreign policy is a winning formula. But neither is the fake “war on women” meme going to rescue Democrats in 2016 if it is predicated on generating outrage about killing infants that might survive on their own or denying the science on the issue. If they bank on that assumption, it is Hillary Clinton and not the Republicans who will find themselves rightly branded as extremists and out of touch with the American people.