A photo from a pro-life protest. A woman holding Catholic beads is in the center.

Elvert Barnes/CC 2.0


Elvert Barnes/CC 2.0

Abortion Is the Only Issue the GOP Has. And They’ll Never Stop Using It

Republicans don't have a platform. But they do know how to unify their base: Portray every Democrat as a baby killer. And support all pro-life candidates—even sexual predators like Roy Moore.

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There are just a few weeks left before the Alabama special election, when Democrat Doug Jones faces off against Republican Roy Moore to fill the seat of current Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Jones is a civil-rights attorney who is best known for prosecuting members of the KKK. Moore is a former State Supreme Court Justice twice removed from office for misusing his power, who we’ve now discovered had a long, prominent history of attempting to date and have physical encounters with teen girls—some of them even minors. At this point, multiple papers in Alabama—one of the most conservative states in the nation—have urged voters to “Reject Moore” at the voting booth and Jones is now finally outpolling his theocratic rival.

Now the GOP is pulling out the biggest—and only—weapon they have as a party. Yes, it’s the abortion card.

If there was any doubt that Republicans believe they are close to losing what should have been an easy win in the south, all it takes is a look at recent headlines on conservative sites touting the one issue they believe can outweigh any candidate’s scandals and shortcomings: the right to terminate a pregnancy. “Full-Term Abortion Backer Doug Jones Now Aims to Fool Alabama Voters on Anti-Life Stance,” screams one of the latest article headlines at Breitbart, the right-wing propaganda site dedicated currently to keeping far-right Republicans in power. “‘Neither of the Above’ in Alabama? Doug Jones on Abortion Is a Zealot,” agrees the somewhat more mainstream National Review, who argues, based on the same quote that Breitbart dissects in its piece, that Jones is an abortion extremist for believing that pregnant people should be able to decide on their own if they want to end a pregnancy, without the government placing restrictions on that action.

It is little wonder that in the waning days of the race, and as Moore accusers continue to speak out, the right is leaning heavily on the tried and true tactic of telling voters that literally nothing a politician says or does has any meaning as long as that person can be counted on to ban abortion once they are in office. After all, it was the blueprint that managed to put Republican Donald Trump into the White House, despite repeated allegations of corruption, sexual assault, and even a recorded admission that he frequently pushed himself physically and without consent onto women he found attractive, hoping to get lucky. When the GOP feared that their presidential hopes were dashed, they picked a series of close states and focused solely on getting social conservatives out to the polls to vote to keep a liberal judge out of the Supreme Court, a ploy that won them the electoral college and a victory even as they were demolished in the popular vote.

Even now the Supreme Court is being dangled in front of Alabama voters as a reminder of what is at stake should Moore lose the election. While the White House has stopped short of endorsing Moore directly, Trump has refused to condemn the former justice’s history of predatory sexual behavior, and his spokeswoman is hitting the airwaves, actively reminding Republicans of all that could be lost if the Senate seat flips to the Democrats, narrowing the GOP majority to just one seat. That includes the ability to confirm a second conservative Supreme Court Justice to the bench, a fact that the White House not so subtly reminded supporters of this weekend when, with no real impetus, the administration released a list of potential far-right judicial candidates if another judge vacates the court.

National anti-abortion leaders are helping as well, reminding locals that a vote for someone who will ban abortion always outweighs any threat a politician may be to the safety of women and girls. “While we must be ever mindful of the need to protect our women and children, we must also remain focused on the issues at hand because every vote counts in the race for life,” Rev. Alveda King, a member of the Trump campaign’s Pro-Life Advisory Council and active Trump administration supporter, as well as Director of Civil Rights for The Unborn for Priests for Life stated via press release. “In Alabama, Judge Moore stands for the sanctity of human life from the womb to the tomb. His opposing candidate Doug Jones, who is an abortion advocate, does not. Remember, Life is a Civil Right. In this election, and indeed in every election, as the One Blood Human Race of Acts 17:26, we must always vote our values, with life from the womb to the tomb as a priority.”

Even Republican Party leaders in Alabama are championing the value of another conservative Supreme Court pick over the message that sending a serial predator to the Senate sends to women and girls. “I’m going to cast my ballot on December the 12th, and I do believe the nominee of the party is the one I’ll vote for,” announced Alabama’s Republican Governor Kay Ivey.  “I believe in the Republican Party, what we stand for, and most important, we need to have a Republican in the United States Senate to vote on things like the Supreme Court justices, other appointments the Senate has to confirm and make major decisions. So that’s what I plan to do, vote for Republican nominee Roy Moore.” Ivey, who herself was seated in office after her predecessor, Republican Governor Robert Bentley resigned after an affair and related scandal, added, “Certainly, [the allegations of predatory sexual behavior towards teens] has an impact. But at the same time, the United States Senate needs to have in my opinion, a majority of Republican votes to carry the day and when they have to consider other major decisions. So that’s a factor, as well.”

The ploy is transparent and jaded—after all, these are the same politicians, activists and conservative thinkers who are trying to block birth control access, end affordable health care, and refuse to reauthorize insurance for low income children—but also, sadly, it is highly effective. The truth is, conservatives looking for a way to justify their vote now have an open excuse to use, and odds are it very well may secure Moore a victory on December 12.

Even worse, that won’t be the end of the story. Groups like the Susan B. Anthony List are already targeting Democratic senators such as Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, hoping they can use abortion as a wedge issue to oust them both in 2018 and gain an even larger majority in the Senate.

Should Roy Moore win Jeff Sessions’s vacant seat, there will be very little impact on the political makeup of Congress at all. But the message from the right will be utterly clear: There is absolutely no Republican candidate so utterly tainted that they cannot be supported as long as they promise to end abortion.

And at that point we will know for certain that the “values voters” don’t have any real values left at all.

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