In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v Wade, former Vice President Mike Pence says abortion should be banned nationwide.
Behind the scenes, he is planning to focus on the issue in the coming weeks, according to advisers.
Former President Donald Trump, in contrast, fears the ruling could hurt the GOP’s election chances, his advisers said, even as he hailed the ruling as “victory for life”.
Some ambitious Republican governors have called for tightening restrictions in their states while other leading figures in the party have avoided such ideas, as strategists say it remains unclear how abortion will reshape key races in future elections.
The court’s ruling has opened up new fissures among potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates, offering early clues about the contours of the primary.
The differing reactions underscore the dilemma confronting Republicans in the aftermath of a far-reaching court decision that could alienate parts of the electorate.
Roughly half of all states are likely or certain to ban or restrict abortion without Roe, according the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion access. Among them are battleground states such as Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan that will be crucial in 2024.
The responses from potential 2024 contenders in the GOP “have been all over the map”, said Bob Heckman, a Republican political strategist who counts the anti-abortion group Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America among his clients.
Democrats, while united in their outrage with the ruling, are also confronting divisions about the path forward.
President Joe Biden, who has said he plans to run for re-election, has urged voters to channel their anger into their votes this November and elect more Democrats who can then codify abortion rights.
Others, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, are calling for swifter action – ending the Senate filibuster to enable Democrats to codify rights.
But in the Republican Party, there is a debate underway about whether the ruling could come back to haunt candidates in future elections.
One Republican strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the presidential primary may push GOP candidates further to the right on abortion in ways that could hurt them in the general election.
“The safest place for Republicans is to say, ‘Send it to the states,’” said the strategist, who has experience with presidential campaigns. But the strategist viewed even that more cautious message as a liability “when it comes to soft Republican women, independents, soft Democrat women, all of which you need to, you know, be elected president.”
Mr Pence has gone in the other direction – writing on Twitter last week that “we must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the centre of American law in every state in the land.”
Advisers to Mr Pence said his firm position on abortion could help in conservative states such as South Carolina.
“It’s been a large part of his career,” said Marc Short, Mr Pence’s former chief of staff, who is currently advising him. “This is who he’s always been.”
Mr Short said the former vice president will be travelling and advocating for anti-abortion legislation in states.
Last Friday, Mr Pence’s organisation, Advancing American Freedom, shared a video highlighting his record: He led efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, the reproductive health organisation, and signed “every pro-life bill that crossed his desk” as governor of Indiana. (© 2022, The Washington Post)
© Washington Post