Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in 2022, Republicans have found themselves on defense politically. That’s because Democrats have weaponized the abortion issue in an attempt to scare voters about extreme GOP policies in a post-Roe world.

In one provocative campaign ad, a fictionalized dramatization shows a woman stopped by police and arrested at the Alabama border on her way to get an abortion. The Biden Campaign hopes ads like that reach suburban women voters this fall. 

“We’re already seeing the kind of fear-mongering that the Democrat elite are doing to try to scare women into voting for Joe Biden based on these insane ideas and ads that are not rooted in reality in any way, shape, or form,” former Democrat Tulsi Gabbard tells CBN News. She says her former colleagues are playing dirty. “We will see if people fall for that fear-mongering that Democrats are pushing forward.”

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Regardless of the tactics, Republicans understand they have a potential problem on their hands.  Six in ten Independents are unhappy that Roe was overturned. In six key battleground states, 11% of voters name abortion as the most important issue — nearly the same percentage as immigration. Overall, polls indicate 63% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. When it comes to moderate Republicans that number reaches 67%.

These statistics have forced some Republican candidates to slightly shift their stance on the issue. “We have seen how the Republican Party has really struggled with how to articulate its position on abortion,” says Meridith McGraw, National Political Correspondent with Politico. 

There are plenty of examples. In Arizona, Senate Candidate Kari Lake once called abortion the “ultimate sin” and supported an Arizona law that called for prison time for anyone involved in performing an abortion. “We have a great law on the books right now,” Lake said two years ago. “If that happens, we will be a state where we will not be taking the lives of our unborn anymore.” 

But as the saying goes, that was then, this is now. “This total ban on abortion that the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled on is out of line with where the people of this state are,” Lake said in a recent campaign video.  

In Washington State, former Congressman Dave Reichart voted against federal funding of abortion and carried a 100 percent rating with National Right to Life. Now running for governor, he’s softening his tone. “I want you to know where I stand on abortion,” he explained in a recent campaign video. “As governor, I will not change Washington law on this issue because I do not believe any politician, regardless of personal belief, has the right to make that decision for any woman.” 

On the national level, pro-life groups aren’t happy with Senate Leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn who for years had consistently backed national limits on abortion. Now, with Roe v Wade out of the picture, they maintain the decision should be left up to the states.

Former President Trump feels the same way and also calls for exceptions to abortion. At a recent pro-life gathering, he recorded a two-minute video message without speaking about abortion at all and didn’t even use the word. “We have to defend religious liberty, free speech, innocent life, and the heritage and tradition that built America into the greatest nation in the history of the world,” Trump told the pro-life Danbury Institute. 

For Trump, the strategy makes sense since he believes abortion politics hurt the GOP in 2022 and could do so again. “It really hurt the Republicans,” Trump recently told Fox News. “They didn’t know how to talk about the issue. Now I think they’re learning how to talk about it.” 

Last week on Capitol Hill, Trump told Congressional Republicans to follow their heart on abortion but to do it in a way that makes sense to voters. It seems Trump believes that because abortion is not a winning political issue right now for Republicans, there is no reason to double down.

“I think Donald Trump is really trying to find some middle ground here and give himself some wiggle room so that he can appeal to the evangelical voters who have continued to be loyal to him over the years, but also make appeals to more moderate voters who have a different position when it comes to abortion,” McGraw tells CBN News.

It’s a tricky situation for former President Trump. While he’s considered by some evangelicals and pro-life leaders as the most pro-life president, 2024 is a new environment. No pro-life ballot initiatives have won since Roe was overturned, even in red states like Kansas. Abortion measures will also most likely be on the ballot this time around in the key swing states of Nevada and Arizona. 

So what’s the solution for Trump and the GOP? Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells CBN News that it’s time to use a strategy of both reason and offense.

“I’m unapologetically pro-life, proud of the fact that Arkansas is the most pro-life state in the country,” Governor Sanders says. “As governor, I intend to keep us there…I think we have to talk about it in ways that people understand, that makes it relevant. Quit going on defense. We so often apologize for our position when frankly, we’re on the right side here. I never want to apologize for defending one of the most vulnerable populations in our country, and that is the unborn. I’m not going to do that. I think that the more that we go on offense instead of cowering and allowing the left to define our position and make us out to be the bad guy, the better off we’re going to be.”

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It appears that sort of game plan is in line with party insiders.

“Something I keep hearing from Republican strategists is they felt like in 2022, Republicans didn’t go on offense enough when it came to the issue of abortion,” McGraw says. “They felt like in 2022, that should have been a lesson learned and that more should be done in 2024 to go on offense with Democrats.” 

Right now though, Republicans are back on their heels, and if they don’t move from that position, it could cost them dearly in 2024. 

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