GOP Explores Retiring Term ‘Pro-Life’ to Describe Being Anti-Abortion – Rolling Stone

gop and abortion losing polls

Republicans know their draconic stance on abortion rights is a losing issue with voters, so much so that it looks like they’re exploring a full PR rebrand of their anti-abortion vocabulary. According to a report from NBC News, GOP strategists and lawmakers have found that the term “pro-life” is generally associated with the hard-line restrictions on abortion access they’ve pushed for decades. So they’re brainstorming new terms to help soften the public’s perception of their efforts to criminalize reproductive freedom. 

So what new term will Republicans land on in their anti-abortion rebrand? We don’t know yet, but Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) has an idea. The Indiana senator has begun using the term “pro-baby” in lieu of “pro-life,” telling NBC News that the phrase “was just a term of my creation to demonstrate my concern for babies.”

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC that contributed more than $26 million to Republican candidates, groups, and organizations in 2022, reportedly presented high-profile GOP lawmakers with polling data during a closed-door meeting this week. The lawmakers present stressed that the meeting was purely informational, and not a strategy session. 

But Republicans have been re-evaluating their messaging surrounding abortion since the 2022 midterms, when the overturning of Roe v. Wade contributed to voter backlash against GOP candidates in a year where the party expected a “red wave.” According to recent polling by Gallup, only 13% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal without exception, with a vast majority holding that abortion should be legal in all or some circumstances.

The reality of public opinion differs with the uncompromising anti-abortion rhetoric that has come to define the GOP’s stance on reproductive rights. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told NBC News that what intrigued him the most from the meeting was polling showing “that ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ means something different now, that people see being pro-life as being against all abortions … at all levels.” 

It should come as no surprise to Cramer, who represents a state that has implemented severe restrictions on abortion access. Cramer himself introduced the “Patients Rights Act” in 2019, a bill that would have designated fetuses as “patients” from the moment of conception and leveled penalties against healthcare providers who in any way assisted with the termination of a pregnancy.

“Many voters think [‘pro-life’] means you’re for no exceptions in favor of abortion ever, ever, and ‘pro-choice’ now can mean any number of things,” added Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) to NBC News of the meeting on Thursday. “So the conversation was mostly oriented around how voters think of those labels, that they’ve shifted. So if you’re going to talk about the issue, you need to be specific.” 


If Hawley needs specificity, he need look no further than his own backyard. Since the overturning of Roe Missouri has passed some of the most restrictive laws against abortion access in the county. The state has banned abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest. Hawley’s wife, Erin Hawley, is a lawyer for the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, and a member of the legal team arguing seeking to secure a nationwide ban on the abortion medication mifepristone.  

In other words, the lawmakers who have for decades referred to themselves as pro-life advocates, and fought with unbridled viciousness for the end of reproductive freedoms in the United States, now want to pretend that the “pro-life” position is actually deeply misunderstood by the public. Who would ever guess that voters would internalize the messaging put out by the party that is so opposed to abortion access they’re willing to demand the defunding of the military over the Pentagon’s reproductive care reimbursement policies?

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