Access to mifepristone is in legal limbo, but the abortion drug has wide support in recent polling. The issue could haunt the GOP in 2024.
- Dueling court rulings on the abortion pill mifepristone have further ignited passions on the issue.
- Ipsos polling reveals that Americans don't want to see an end to the legality of medication abortion.
After a federal judge in Texas halted the Food and Drug Administration's 23-year-old approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, another federal judge — this time in Washington state — ruled that the pill is safe and said that it could continue being used in 17 states and Washington, DC.
The dueling rulings have now set up a legal standoff that will likely be resolved at the Supreme Court.
But in the wake of the high court's 2022 vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the United States, the medical procedure has become a political albatross for the GOP — galvanizing Independents and suburban voters against the party.
In the 2022 midterms, Republicans were poised to make dramatic inroads with voters in key swing states who were dismayed by rampant inflation, but Democrats across the board overperformed in the fall, retaining their Senate majority and suffering minimal losses in the House.
What may have foreshadowed the GOP's abortion issue before last year's midterms? The failure of an August anti-abortion amendment in Kansas — one of the most conservative states in the country — was a clear sign that the party's messaging was not working.
In this week's Wisconsin Supreme Court race, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz, who voiced support for abortion rights, easily defeated former Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Daniel Kelly — giving the liberal bloc a majority on the court for the first time in 15 years.
And the public debate about the Texas judge's ruling could make the Republican Party's abortion dilemma even more dire, as President Joe Biden is certain to make abortion rights a tenet of his expected reelection campaign.
In an Ipsos poll conducted in early February, 56% of respondents indicated that they disagreed with the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe, while 33% agreed with the decision. While 80% of Democrats and 56% of Independents disagreed with the decision, slightly over a third — or 35% of Republicans — took the same position.
And the level of support for the continued legalization of medication abortion in the United States remains high.
The Ipsos survey revealed that 65% of respondents wanted to see medication abortion remain available as an option, with 84% support among Democrats and 67% support among Independents. Nearly half of Republicans (49%) in the survey agreed.
When respondents were asked if they wanted to see a Texas judge — in this case Matthew Kacsmaryk — override the FDA's approval of mifepristone, a majority (53%) disagreed, with only 29% would agree with such a decision. A near-majority of Independents (48%) said they would disagree with the courts overriding the FDA decision, while only 28% of respondents agreed.
As many Independents consider GOP candidacies, which include former President Donald Trump and former Govs. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, their respective records on abortion will be under a microscope. (As would Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida if she jumps in the race.)
DeSantis, who has thrown his support behind a six-week abortion ban also embraced by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature, may have the most at stake, though.
As a sitting executive, the governor is at the center of a deeply polarizing issue. And while he's well-liked among Republicans, a six-week abortion ban — despite its fifteen-week exceptions for victims of rape or incest — would become a rallying cry among Democrats and very likely turn off a wide swath of Independents in critical battleground states in a general election.
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