(WASHINGTON) — Abortion rights were a key factor for some races in the 2022 midterm elections, according to exit polling. Multiple states had measures before voters about enshrining or barring the constitutional right to an abortion following the June 2022 Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade — the landmark case that had legalized the procedure across the nation.
But absent those ballot measures, political analysts like Sarah Isgur feel the issue of abortion may not have as much weight in the 2024 election cycle as it did in 2022.
“I think that’s the strategy moving forward for the pro-choice side … that the ballot measure can help with turnout at the very margin,” said Isgur, an ABC News contributor. “Without those ballot measures, if you’re just running on a platform that includes abortion as an issue, right now, it’s pretty far down most Americans’ list of why they’re picking the candidates they’re picking.”
At a Republican National Committee conference in January, members passed a resolution urging the party to “go on offense in the 2024 election cycle, and expose the Democrats’ extreme position of supporting abortion on-demand up until the moment of birth.”
Democrats cast their views on the matter another way — calling it a matter of personal autonomy over government regulation — and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, data indicates nearly all abortions in the U.S. occur at or before 13 weeks’ gestation.
Though the RNC resolution in January has no legal value, it represents where party leaders stands on abortion heading into the next presidential election cycle.
Now, Republican politicians are “doing the same thing they were doing pre the reversal of Roe,” Isgur said. “Trying to outmaneuver each other to be seen as the most pro-life person in a race or legislature.”
Their history on abortion could influence voters’ choices, too.
Here’s a look at what three leading GOP governors — who are all seen as potential 2024 candidates — are doing about the issue in their respective states.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Following the reversal of Roe, a law banning abortion after 15 weeks was reinstated in Florida. There are a few exceptions: if the life of the mother is at risk or if the fetus has a fatal anomaly, but there are no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has suggested he would support further tightening abortion restrictions in the state — at the same time that some other Republicans have criticized him for, in their words, “hiding behind a 15-week ban.”
When asked at a December news conference about signing a so-called “heartbeat bill” to increase restrictions up to when cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo, DeSantis said, “I’m willing to sign great [pro]-life legislation. That’s what I’ve always said I would do.”
In August, DeSantis suspended a prominent prosecutor from Tampa after the attorney made a public statement that indicated he would not criminalize the procedure.
“I just think we’re better when everybody counts,” DeSantis said during a gubernatorial debate in October. “I understand not everyone’s going to be born in perfect circumstances, but I would like to see everybody have a shot.”
DeSantis is seen as a potential 2024 presidential contender but has played down such a possibility.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” he said with a laugh when asked on Tuesday if he was set to announce a campaign.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem
As a state leader, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has been one of the biggest supporters for legislation to restrict abortions.
South Dakota had a so-called “trigger law” in place before Roe was overruled and, following the Supreme Court’s decision, the state implemented a strict ban on abortion, with exceptions to save the life of the mother.
“What the Supreme Court did was fix a wrong decision that was made many years ago and now give the power back to the states,” Noem told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz in a June 2022 “This Week” interview.
Noem continued in that interview, “I don’t believe that mothers in this situation should ever be prosecuted. Now doctors who knowingly violate the law, they should be prosecuted, definitely.”
In January, Noem and the state Attorney General Marty Jackley wrote a joint letter to South Dakota pharmacists, warning them of possible felony prosecution associated with abortion pills.
“Under South Dakota law, pharmacies, including chain drug stores, are prohibited from procuring and dispensing abortion-inducing drugs with the intent to induce an abortion, and are subject to felony prosecution under South Dakota law, despite the recent FDA ruling,” Noem and Jackley wrote.
A spokesperson for Noem in January criticized DeSantis for not being committed to the pro-life movement.
When asked about DeSantis and his abortion agenda, Noem in a January interview with CBS News said, “I would nudge every governor to do what they can to back up their pro-life record.”
Noem told CBS that she was in no hurry to decide on a 2024 run and was “not convinced that I need to run for president.”
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has been vocal in his support for more restrictive abortion laws in his state, said during his campaign in 2021 that “I’m pro-life. I believe in exceptions in the case of rape and in case of incest and in case of where the mother’s life is in jeopardy.”
In January, Democrats in the Virginia Senate voted down a 15-week ban on the procedure with exceptions for rape and incest, along with other abortion-restricting legislation passed by the state’s Republican-led House.
“There is a real sense of frustration on behalf of our Senate Democrats who refuse to listen to Virginians, and over 80% of Virginians have expressed the view that Republicans and Democrats should find consensus on this issue,” Youngkin said in a January interview with TV station WDVM.
“There’s still a path forward in the House. But I sure hope they start listening to the folks that elected them to come represent them,” Youngkin said.
As for 2024, he told NBC News last month that he was “overwhelmingly humbled” by the discussion but did not definitively rule out running — or not.
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