Republicans are trying to find a new term for ‘pro-life’ to stave off more electoral losses

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., summarized the closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill as being focused on “pro-baby policies.”

Sep 8, 2023 - 16:28
Republicans are trying to find a new term for ‘pro-life’ to stave off more electoral losses

WASHINGTON — Republican strategists are exploring a shift away from “pro-life” messaging on abortion after consistent Election Day losses for the GOP when reproductive rights were on the ballot.

At a closed-door meeting of Senate Republicans this week, the head of a super PAC closely aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., presented poll results that suggested voters are reacting differently to commonly used terms like “pro-life” and “pro-choice” in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, said several senators who were in the room.

The polling, which NBC News has not independently reviewed, was made available to senators Wednesday by former McConnell aide Steven Law and showed that “pro-life” no longer resonated with voters.

“What intrigued me the most about the results was that ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ means something different now, that people see being pro-life as being against all abortions ... at all levels,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said in an interview Thursday.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said the polling made it clear to him that more specificity is needed in talking about abortion.

“Many voters think [‘pro-life’] means you’re for no exceptions in favor of abortion ever, ever, and ‘pro-choice’ now can mean any number of things. So the conversation was mostly oriented around how voters think of those labels, that they’ve shifted. So if you’re going to talk about the issue, you need to be specific,” Hawley said Thursday.

“You can’t assume that everybody knows what it means,” he added. “They probably don’t.”

Abortion is now banned in 14 states, and several others have pursued restrictions. Eleven states, including Missouri, have enacted abortion bans with no exceptions for rape and incest.

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