Tuesday’s election losses spark debate on future of GOP’s pro-life message

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


It didn’t take long for the finger-pointing to begin following the GOP’s stinging losses in Tuesday’s elections.

Amid the handwringing and flying barbs expected in the post-mortem GOP blame game, one thing became abundantly clear: abortion rights in a post-Roe America appear to be the single most powerful motivating factor in bringing Democratic voters to the polls, also reflected in staggering GOP losses in the 2022 midterms.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) homed in on the voter turnout issue dogging Republicans.  

“Part of what we have to do is get the vote out,” he said. “I don’t know if you all saw the disturbing number[s] [for] turnout. Clearly, these were races that Democrats didn’t win [but rather] Republicans lost. We didn’t show up,” he said, according to The Hill.  

“It’s about execution; it’s about messaging, and we’ve got to do a better job,” he said, calling Tuesday’s elections “a complete fail.”

In solidly red Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear won another term after campaigning on preserving abortion rights and labeling his pro-life challenger, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, as an extremist. 

In a blow to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Democrats took full control of the Virginia statehouse, dashing any chance Republicans had of passing abortion restriction legislation in the state.

“The forces that led to the Democrats’ victory almost certainly had to do more with national political trends—especially the huge headwind for the GOP that is still the abortion decision—than anything about Youngkin himself,” Thomas Gift, a political science professor at the University College London, U.K., told Newsweek.


In one the most stunning losses of the evening Tuesday, Ohio voters approved a ballot measure to enshrine abortions up to birth in the state’s constitution. 

Democrats seized on the victory in a state that voted for Donald Trump in the last two presidential elections as confirmation that abortion is a winning message for the party heading into 2024.

“Ohio might serve as a model for swing state Democrats looking to juice up turnout,” Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Houston told Newsweek, adding, “Abortion on the ballot is a net plus for Democrats.”

Ohio Republican Senator J.D. Vance weighed in on X, acknowledging, “For pro lifers, last night was a gut punch. No sugar coating it.”

He continued: “We have to recognize how much voters mistrust us (meaning elected Republicans) on this issue. Having an unplanned pregnancy is scary. Best case, you’re looking at social scorn and thousands of dollars of unexpected medical bills. We need people to see us as the pro-life party, not just the anti-abortion party.”


Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) blamed the loss in Ohio on “weak” Republicans in a post.

“Republicans lose on abortion because they have for decades allowed democrats to lie about abortion on every level,” she wrote. “Republicans refuse to fight hard against the evil lies of the democrats who claim ‘abortion is women’s healthcare and a right.’”

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter wrote in a Substack article that Republicans’ crusade against abortion had become the “defund the police” of the GOP.

Coulter observed that Ohio was just the latest state to “emphatically reject the tiniest restriction on abortion” and that “refusing to acknowledge election results is not a good way to go through life.”

She also appeared to criticize Republicans who pushed for abortion laws to be decided by states, noting that “the states voted— and voted and voted and voted — and we lost.”

“It turns out (no matter what they tell pollsters or their neighbors) the people LOVE abortion,” Coulter continued. “They want no restrictions. None. Not the tiniest little imposition.” 

Coulter advised pro-life conservatives to work harder to “change hearts and minds” instead of “forc[ing] Republicans to keep losing elections.”


“They are badly on the wrong side of the American public,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told NBC. “The only way for them to fix this political problem is for them to stop their efforts to ban abortion nationwide. … Their problem isn’t the terms or the words they use. The problem is that they are fundamentally trying to impact women’s rights and people are furious.”

Christina Reynolds, senior vice president of communications at Emily’s List, said targeted Republican efforts to replace the term “anti-abortion” with “pro-life” in their messaging had fallen short, asserting that “voters know the track record of each party on abortion, no matter what terms are used.

“No matter how the Republicans try to say it, voters understand fundamentally who wants to take away their rights, who has worked for decades to do it, and who is continuing to try and take away their rights,” she said. “And they understand who’ trying to protect their rights, and they’re going to vote accordingly.”


Joe Carter, senior writer for The Gospel Coalition, noted in a September op-ed that Republicans are increasingly viewing the pro-life position as a political liability.

“Some GOP politicians remain convictionally pro-life, of course, and will continue to support policies that oppose abortion. But the party is sending not-so-subtle signals that they’re abandoning their general commitment to the pro-life cause now that it’s become an electoral liability,” Carter wrote.

The crux of the problem Carter sees is that many conservative politicians “weren’t pro-life but merely anti-Roe.” He explained that Republicans have, for decades, viewed their opposition to Roe as “a necessary position to gain support from social conservatives within the party” at little cost to themselves.

Politicians, he said, were more than willing “to allow the judicial branch of government to take the lead, since there wasn’t much they could do while abortion-on-demand was the law of the land.” That changed with the 2022 Supreme Court ruling that sent abortion rights back to state legislators, forcing Republicans “to choose between supporting bans on abortion or placating pro-choice voters.”

Carter said that, for the past 50 years, the pro-life movement has been one of “incrementalism, which advocates that we should work to save what children we can through taking actionable steps to put limits and restrictions on abortion in whatever ways are possible” with the aim of ending infanticide altogether.

The problem, he said, lies in Republicans’ decision to rush to implement abortion restrictions rather than working to outlaw the horrific practice altogether.

“One cannot affirm the value of life and yet make exceptions based on gestational age or convenience,” he said, adding that “any politician who does so…has abandoned any right to the label of ‘pro-life.’”


While pundits and politicians are busy hashing out the implications of Tuesday’s elections, the editors at National Review are urging those who value the sanctity of life to press forward in the fight to protect the lives of the most vulnerable.

“The adversaries and false friends of the pro-life movement will undoubtedly use this loss to try to convince pro-lifers that their cause is politically toxic and that they just ought to give up,” they wrote. “In the mind of anyone who knows the truth that abortion deliberately kills an innocent human being, giving up on the most important human-rights cause of our time is unthinkable. After five decades of Roe and less than two years from Dobbs, the fight for life in the democratic arena has barely begun.”

This article was partially informed by The Associated PressNewsweek, Mediate, The Hill, and Washington Stand reports.