Contraception is a winning issue, conservative strategists tell GOP

Trump himself has blamed anti-abortion groups and the strict laws they support for electoral defeats in 2022 and 2023. And several prominent conservatives have implored Republicans in the post-Roe era to focus on issues such as contraception and maternal care to improve perception of the GOP’s approach to women’s health as Democrats have wielded the issue to notch several election wins.

Conway, lobbyist Susan Hirschmann and Independent Women’s Voice CEO Heather Higgins hope to back up these calls with fresh polling data. On Wednesday, they plan to meet with GOP members and staff in the House and Senate, as well as the Republican campaign arms fighting to hold the House and flip the Senate, to warn that if they don’t talk about birth control and work to make it more accessible, they risk losing voters and confirming arguments from the left that the party that outlawed abortion in much of the country is coming next for contraception.

Meaningful action on contraception, they argue, could help Republicans with their own base and with Democrats dissatisfied with President Joe Biden.

“You’ve got a fair number of Democrats saying that they want an alternative to Biden and Harris, or they may sit it out,” Conway said in an interview. “He’s especially bleeding young voters, who you would think would be animated and interested to hear about [contraception], and who are in the prime of their years and choosing to conceive or not to conceive.”

The group will share polling commissioned by Independent Women’s Voice and conducted by KA Consulting, Conway’s firm, that shows overwhelming public support — including from Republicans and people who identify as “pro-life” — for policies that make contraception cheaper and more available, including implantable long-acting versions like IUDs that some conservatives view as akin to abortion.

The message, they plan to stress, is that Republicans need to talk more about what they are for and less about what they oppose.

“Republicans are like your uncle, who really loves you and loves the women in his family, but he’s bad about showing it,” Higgins said in an interview. “It’s just not in their natural vocabulary. And we’re trying to help them learn how to make this be more part of their vocabulary and tell them that they need to talk about these things that their constituents all support, and be more visible and vocal.”

None of the group briefing members on the poll are working for any presidential campaign. Conway, a Fox News contributor, remains friendly and in contact with Trump but has no formal role in his White House bid, according to a person close to both her and the campaign.

The longtime GOP pollster told POLITICO that while it’s no shock that contraception is popular, particularly as states move to outlaw most abortions, she was struck by some of the poll results, including how many conservatives believe Congress should ensure access to contraception regardless of cost.

“I’ve been doing this for over three decades and I’m very surprised that over 8 in 10 independents and over 8 in 10 pro-lifers would agree with that,” she said. “Because some people say: ‘You may have a right to contraception but why am I paying for it?’ That’s the classic libertarian argument.”

Conway plans to tell Capitol Hill Republicans that they “will lose precious political currency and votes” if they do nothing or take steps to put contraception further out of reach — pointing to the poll’s finding that nearly half of conservative women “would consider voting for a candidate from a different political party” if Republicans back birth control restrictions.

But progressives preparing for battles in 2024 to hold the Senate and White House are skeptical Republicans can cast themselves as champions of birth control heading into 2024.

“It won’t work,” said Sara Spain, the spokesperson for the group EMILYS List, which funds and coaches candidates who support reproductive rights. “Actions speak louder than words and voters know which lawmakers stand with the majority of Americans and which don’t. So efforts like this attempted rebrand won’t do much, because we’ve all seen their record and we’ve seen they are willing to ban abortion and contraception.”

Organizations like EMILYS List plan to keep that record firmly on voters’ radar going into next year.

For example, House Republicans’ spending bills, set to come up for a vote early next year, would eliminate funding for the Title X family planning program and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program — both of which provide contraception to millions of people who might not otherwise be able to afford it. And last summer, Senate Republicans blocked the House-passed Right to Contraception Act, which would have enshrined the right to contraception into federal law.

Democrats have also highlighted Justice Clarence Thomas’ call for the high court to “reconsider” the decades-old federal precedent guaranteeing the right to contraception. And conservative groups aligned with the GOP, including Turning Point USA, have urged women to stop taking birth control pills, claiming they “are actually abortifacients.”

Higgins hopes the survey convinces Republican members of Congress that these efforts do not reflect their constituents’ views and play right into Democrats’ hands.

“If any conservatives believe that this is what the pro-life world actually wants, it might help break through to them and explain to them that even among the most pro-life conservatives, you find this strong support for safe, modern, effective, accessible contraception … available for everyone,” she said.

The online poll was conducted Oct. 21–27 and surveyed 1,000 registered, likely voters with an oversample of women (660 total), registered likely voters and a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Meridith McGraw contributed to this report.

Source:Politico