Fearing Political Fallout, Some State Conservatives Ease Push for Antiabortion Bills

August 6, 2013 — Concerned about alienating moderate voters in the 2014 elections, some Republican state lawmakers are stemming their party's widespread push for antiabortion-rights legislation in conservative-led states, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

According to the AP/Huffington Post, abortion-rights opponents have enacted more than 170 abortion restrictions in 30 states since the GOP won control of the majority of state legislatures in 2010. The legislation includes increasingly restrictive abortion bans, mandatory ultrasounds before obtaining abortions and new requirements for abortion clinics.

Although they still oppose abortion rights, Republican leaders in more than half a dozen states are warning that additional restrictions could make it more difficult to "cultivate voters not enamored with the GOP's social agenda," including women and young people, the AP/Huffington Post reports. The resistance is strongest in Midwestern and Southern border states, where elections are expected to be competitive next year.

For example, although Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and several other swing states have enacted multiple abortion restrictions in recent years, a few GOP leaders have resisted the strictest proposals in favor of a more measured approach. Likewise, GOP leaders in Florida do not expect to pass further restrictions, a key measure failed this year in Virginia and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) is "balking" at additional antiabortion legislation, according to the AP/Huffington Post.

Ohio Senate President Tom Neihaus (R) -- an abortion-rights opponent -- in November blocked a bill (HB 125) that would have banned abortion as early as six weeks. "I just didn't think it was appropriate," he said, adding, "It's a distraction from our primary focus of getting the economy back on track."

Similarly, Wisconsin Sen. Dale Schultz (R) is working to fend off additional abortion restrictions in the state's GOP-controlled Legislature, even though he personally supports the legislation. He said, "[W]e were pushing people too fast. All we're going to do is panic people and this is going to blow up if we don't begin to moderate on some of this stuff."

Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, noted that GOP-controlled states have already severely restricted abortion access, even if they do not pass more bills. "Even if this wave of restrictions stop, it's not like access will be restored," she said (Beaumont, AP/Huffington Post, 8/2).