Jul 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Anti-abortion memo to Republicans: Don't leave it to the states

Illustration of a hand drawing a chalk box around an elephant.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A leading anti-abortion rights group is urging Republicans in Congress to stay away from phrases like "nationwide ban" and make clear they won't criminalize pregnant people's own actions.

Driving the news: A memo from SBA Pro-Life America sent to GOP lawmakers last week includes talking points on how to answer "hostile" abortion questions and a plea not to cede the issue to state lawmakers.

Why it matters: Anti-abortion activists don't want Congress to leave the issue entirely to states, given how many are committed to maintaining or strengthening abortion rights.

  • They also don't want the most extreme measures by lawmakers in one state or another to cost Republicans key seats nationally, thus limiting them from enacting incremental new restrictions.

Zoom in: The memo urges Republicans to rally around "the most ambitious legislation that can achieve consensus" rather than split off on competing bills.

  • It doesn't recommend specific limits but points lawmakers to polling around combined support for six-week and 15-week restrictions.

The big picture: GOP officials in individual states are introducing their own proposals with varying restrictions and exceptions.

  • Some strategists worry that the most extreme ideas — including the criminalization of pregnant people's actions — could hurt the Republican Party in November.
  • With the GOP poised to win back control of at least one chamber of Congress in November, the anti-abortion movement also is thinking beyond the midterm elections.

What they're saying: The memo says that the Women's Health Protection Act codifying abortion rights, which was passed 219-210 by the House on Friday but is expected to be blocked in the Senate, should be referred to as the "Abortion on Demand Until Birth Act."

  • It also says anti-abortion lawmakers should "demonstrate that the pro-life movement cares not only about the unborn child but about the mother as well," while relying on "modern medicine and science" to "focus on the humanity of the unborn child."
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