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NARAL president Mini Timmaraju. Photo: Lawrence Busacca/Getty Images for Women in Cable Telecommunications

When Republicans successfully captured voters by leaning into critical race theory as an education issue, it reminded the new president of NARAL how the GOP has "scared" Democratic candidates out of talking about abortion rights in past campaigns.

What they're saying: "The right-wing misinformation machine is getting more sophisticated," Mini Timmaraju told Axios. "What we saw in Virginia — it’s very similar to the tactics used to scare candidates from talking about abortion."

  • In an interview, Timmaraju said her goal is to help Democrats be more competitive — especially at the local and state level — by sharing NARAL's data and research around abortion access and reproductive rights with candidates to help inform their messaging.
  • "Republicans know how popular this issue is, and [Democratic candidates] are concerned about how that’s going to affect the midterms," she said. "We need to take full advantage of that by simultaneously fighting in the courts, fighting in the statehouses and the state legislatures."
  • Roughly 60% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to Pew Research.

Driving the news: Timmaraju was announced last week as the organization's newest president.

  • She just wrapped up a nine-month gig advising the Biden-Harris administration on diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • In 2016, she worked with Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign as its national women’s vote director.

The backdrop: Texas implemented the country's most restrictive abortion law in September, banning Texans from receiving the medical procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected — about six weeks of pregnancy.

  • Mississippi has proposed similar legislation to ban abortions after 15 weeks.
  • Lawmakers in both states said they pushed the legislation to protect the unborn.
  • If the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade altogether, abortion would immediately become illegal in at least 12 states.

"It's a scary moment for the movement and a very scary moment for the American people, for folks like me who’ve known Roe v. Wade to be the law of the land my entire life," Timmaraju told Axios.

  • "But it’s also a great opportunity for us to bring these issues back to the forefront, and to really work closely with the candidates and the party to make sure everyone's comfortable pushing back to ensure reproductive freedom for all."

Go deeper

Vulnerable Democrats: Less Trump talk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Vulnerable House Democrats are convinced they need to talk less about the man who helped them get elected: President Trump.

Why it matters: Democrats are privately concerned nationalizing the 2022 mid-terms with emotionally-charged issues — from Critical Race Theory to Donald Trump's role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — will hamstring their ability to sell the local benefits of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House voted Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

House passes annual defense bill

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted to pass the annual defense bill 363-70 on Tuesday night, authorizing nearly $770 billion in funding for defenses and national security programs.

Why it matters: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) still has to clear the Senate, but the House passage greatly increases the chances that the must-pass defense bill will move through both chambers of Congress before the end of the year.