California’s election could give pro-lifers a foot in the door in the state
California groups hoping to encourage Democrats to vote against the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom in two weeks have taken up abortion as one of their rallying cries. On Aug. 9, Newsom listed abortion in a tweet as the third of five issues that will be “on the line” in the recall, especially considering the strong conservative leanings of his top challenger, talk show host Larry Elder, and other Republican opponents.
The pro-abortion group NARAL has contributed $10,000 to oppose the recall, while Planned Parenthood has contributed more than $34,000, according to the California Secretary of State’s office. Since late June, NARAL Pro-Choice California has released three statements of support for Newsom. One called him an “unwavering champion for reproductive freedom.” In a bright pink banner on its website, the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California urges visitors to vote no on Question One, saying, “The stakes have never been higher.”
In the minds of those groups, California has become a haven for abortion access. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 15 percent of all the country’s abortions occurred in the state in 2017, the most recent year for which data are available. California has few abortion restrictions, only protecting babies once they can survive outside the womb and not even requiring parental consent for minors. The state’s Medicaid program also pays for abortion. A Republican governor could lead a rollback of the state’s pro-abortion status.
The results of the recall could also affect the pro-life fight at the federal level. A victory for a Republican could mean a loss for Democrats in the U.S. Senate, where they hold a majority only with the vice president’s tie-breaking vote. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is in her late 80s, and a new governor could appoint her replacement if something happened to her before her term ends in 2025.
But the possibility of more pro-life policies might not motivate Democratic voters as much as groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood want. A 2020 Gallup poll showed that alignment on abortion beliefs is less of a concern for so-called pro-choice voters than it is for pro-life voters. While 30 percent of pro-lifers said they would only vote for a politician who has their same views on the subject, only 19 percent of people who identified as “pro-choice” said the same. About half of voters in both groups said a candidate’s stance on abortion was just one of numerous factors important to them when voting.
Democrats fear Republicans will turn out in greater numbers for the recall on Sept. 14 since the GOP has led the push for the election. But no major pro-life groups have donated funds in support of the recall effort, perhaps because of the pro-abortion majority in the state legislature. Republican strategist Rob Stutzman told Politico that focusing on topics such as the pandemic and homelessness would better motivate people to vote against Newsom. “Pro-life voters, I think at this point, are fairly resigned to the fact there’s really not much that could be done in a state like California with a Republican governor, given the Legislature,” Stutzman said.
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