How Republicans Are Trying to Create a False Reality on Abortion

Republicans debating over term limits is a distraction from the party's goal of enacting a federal ban despite abortion being widely popular.

Building with a giant sign advertising GOP debate
A Gallop poll found 85 percent of Americans support abortion—and that’s across parties, despite what the GOP wants you to believe. Shutterstock

The Republican Party’s obsession with banning abortion is well established, but the callousness with which it was discussed on a national stage at the first GOP debate was something else—and I’m sure will continue Wednesday at the next debate.

The candidates’ newest tactic is to obsess over finding “consensus” around what gestational limit is “correct” for a federal abortion ban. Former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and former Alaska Gov. Asa Hutchinson are rallying behind a 15-week national ban. While neither Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis nor entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have supported a national ban, they both support six-week state bans.

And the other Republicans? They’re looking for “consensus,” i.e. they don’t care when, as long as abortion is banned (though former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, did suggest Florida’s six-week ban is “terrible.”)

The focus on week limits will continue to be a major talking point as at least 13 candidates jockey to earn the Republican nomination. The dissolution of abortion as critical reproductive health care is the Republicans’ calling card, but now they’re creating a fanciful diversion.

The six weeks versus 15 weeks debate is a false choice meant to distract you from the truth that the GOP wants to enact a federal ban despite abortion being widely popular. According to Gallop, 85 percent of Americans support abortion—and that’s across parties, despite GOP groaning.

Republicans can reframe the conversation as much as they want, but pregnant people looking to have abortions are not concerned with gestational limits, they are concerned about their lives.

If you want to believe in something, believe in your ability to make the best decision for your own body.

In past abortion laws (Roe v. Wade, affirmed by Planned Parenthood v. Casey), the gestational timing was critical. It was what Roe’s protections sat upon. The law allowed states to limit abortion only up to the line of viability—the time when a fetus could survive outside the womb—which is determined to be around 23 to 24 weeks. Since Roe fell, many states have gone on to ban abortion at various gestational limits, far ahead of viability. You’re likely well aware of Texas SB 8 and other six-week bans. At six weeks, many people don’t even know they’re pregnant. You’ve heard about eight-week, 12-week, and 15-week bans. In this chain of legal idiocy, viability becomes irrelevant, and Republicans’ insistence on numbers has lost meaning.

By presenting abortion access as a problem with only two solutions—a ban at six weeks or 15 weeks—Republicans are trying to trick voters into choosing option A or option B knowing full and well both options are a trap. Either option equals a federal ban. And a federal ban is a federal ban is a federal ban. Whatever gestational week they slap on it, it’s still a ban, and it’ll ruthlessly strip bodily autonomy away from more than half of the country.

If we don’t have bodily autonomy, we have nothing. That’s exactly what Republicans don’t want you to remember. It’s why they throw up numbers like demonic Count Draculas. It’s why they assuringly nod about exceptions for rape, incest, or the pregnant person’s life. (These exceptions don’t actually work.) They debate numbers so you’ll forget about people dying from forced birth. (A majority of OB-GYNs recently confirmed this.) They perform empathy so you won’t think about young pregnant rape victims being denied abortions. (Because who wants to publicly acknowledge they created those very circumstances?) It’s a circus. What they’re after is control: of our bodies and futures.

Abortion access is needed across the pregnancy timeline, not because we’re being “greedy,” but because pregnancy is entirely out of one’s control. A fetus that won’t survive? Not plannable. A life-threatening condition? Not plannable. A miscarriage? Not plannable. A rape? Not plannable. The volume of stories of medical crises since the Supreme Court overturned abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is overwhelming. And dare I say, what about human dignity? Lifelong trauma? Does that factor in, GOP? Republicans are trying to appeal to their base, but unfortunately, their base actually knows the reality of being pregnant and just how critical abortion access is. They know it’s not just a campaign talking point.

The Republican Party has shown us what their priority was the moment Roe finally fell: cruelty. They’re emboldened. It’s been hard to keep up with the onslaught of draconian legislation across the country. “Finding consensus” means stealing a human right, plain and simple. Don’t fall for their publicity stunt.

The direction of the GOP is deeply and widely unpopular and they know that. Their only shot at winning is by flat-faced lying. They have never cared about us, and now that campaign season is here, they’re certainly not going to start caring. If you want to believe in something, believe in your ability to make the best decision for your own body. We have ourselves.