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You Can't Trust the Narrative on the Texas Abortion Law
In 2020, the Georgia legislature passed House Bill 481, the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act.” The law banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat was detected. The national media narrative sprung into action that Georgia Republicans would be hurt by this. The coverage intensified after Governor Brian Kemp signed it into law.
Georgia, in particular, was trending blue and the passage of HB 481 became a catalyst for Democrat opposition and national grassroots fundraising. The author of the legislation, State Representative Ed Setzler, was a dead man walking. His district had trended Democrat already. He had barely won in 2018.
Nationally, Setzler became the face of, in the media’s words, the “anti-abortion movement.” Polling showed Georgia could expect a bloodbath for the GOP. The GOP was projected to lose up to ten seats in the State House and up to five in the State Senate. Up to election day, the polling reflected a dramatic shift against the GOP, and the media consistently tied it to the right-wing cultural drift that led to the passage of HB 481.
The New York Times covered it. Vox Media gave it typical hysteria. Slate inaccurately claimed women would receive life in prison for an abortion. That was picked up across the media as one of the hysterical claims. Republicans went on defense. Nationally, Republican strategists suggested it probably wasn’t smart politics, particularly headed into a presidential campaign season when Democrat voters would be surging.
And then… Ed Setzler won re-election even as Donald Trump lost Setzler’s district. The Georgia Republicans defeated the Democrat leader in the State House. The GOP broke even in the State House and lost one in the State Senate. The bloodbath never happened.
As I mentioned on Friday, “Nowhere is progressive bias in the media more prevalent than in coverage of abortion.…The entire abortion discussion on television is designed to advocate for abortion.”
Republican consultants are pre-disposed to talking pro-life values while privately believing such policies alienate female voters in the suburbs. Witness, for example, the Lincoln Project. Its consultants were some of the most well-connected GOP consultants prior to Trump and they ran pro-life candidates. Now, they’re running attack ads in Texas against Republicans, convinced the Texas pro-life legislation is an attack on women.
They’re just doing publicly what a lot of Republican consultants and strategists privately believe. After all, it is the GOP that packed the Supreme Court full of conservatives while also keeping Planned Parenthood funded.
You cannot trust the media narrative against the Texas abortion law. The same narrative happened in Georgia and the voters blew it up. The narrative is shaped by a pro-abortion culture in the press and fear of suburban women among Republican consultants who do not necessarily understand suburban women outside Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, MD — both of which are not really indicative of most suburban women.
Even if the Texas abortion law is bad politics, it has inarguably already saved lives. Even if the GOP strategists who fret about it being bad politics are right, I’d rather good policies that save lives than good politics that save Republicans.
But, again, I’m not sure we can trust the consensus opinion that it is bad politics. It was purportedly awful politics in Georgia and the sponsor of the legislation, in a district rapidly shifting blue, became the single most targeted state house Republican in the United States. But he won even as Trump lost his district. The Democrats failed to deliver on their wave that even the polling said would happen.
Maybe, just maybe, the overwhelming pro-abortion bias in the national press influences opinions of talking heads and D.C. strategists more than it influences voters outside the D.C. echo chamber.
Lastly, I would note these Republicans who tell us this is bad politics never seem to suggest an alternative. They’re always in favor of babies with their talk and never in favor of babies with their actions. They always say they want pro-life policies until those policies are passed, then they run away from them as fast as possible.
Notice they never provide an alternative and notice also no one really said much of anything after the Texas law passed. Everyone got to presume it would immediately be struck down so they would not have to deal with it. But the Supreme Court has given it a temporary reprieve and a lot of people are exposing themselves as not really as pro-life as they claimed.