The GOP’s Abortion-Obsessed First Day

The Republicans won big in November by downplaying social issues, only to push for abortion regulations right out of the gate.

01.13.15 10:45 AM ET

The day Republicans took over Congress, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declared, “We’re focused on job creation” and running “a more efficient, effective, accountable government.”

“Serious adults are in charge here,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) added for good measure, “and we intend to make progress.”

And then they introduced no fewer than five restrictions on abortion on the first day of the new Republican-controlled Congress. Because, you know, priorities.

Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) reintroduced a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a bill the Republican House had already passed in 2013. And in the Senate, David Vitter (R-La.)—always a jarring champion for such moral crusades given the scandalous and, uh, detailed revelations that he frequented a DC prostitution ring—introduced four bills restricting reproductive rights. One would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds for family planning work—even though abortions make up only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s vital health services work, and Planned Parenthood is already barred from using federal dollars for abortions.

Another one of Vitter’s bills would require all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital—which especially hurts rural abortion providers that aren’t located hear hospitals. The mortality rate from colonoscopies (which do not require hospital admitting privileges) is 40 times higher than for abortions, but anyway. Vitter also has a bill would allow hospitals, doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in abortion-related care even in cases of an emergency—which makes that “admitting privileges” bill entirely disingenuous. And Vitter would also ban “sex-selective abortion,” which is purely a fictional boogieman invented by anti-abortion opponents.

Job creation, eh? The only jobs these bills will create are at advocacy organizations protesting these ridiculous infringements on reproductive freedom.

In the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans nationwide deliberately feigned moderation on social issues while proclaiming how they would focus on the economy if elected. Republicans like Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Sen. Joni Ernst in Iowa and Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado backed away from their prior anti-abortion fanaticism while campaigning. Ernst, for instance, said that her previous support for a pregnancy-restricting “fetal personhood” law in Iowa was “simply a statement that I support life.” The Washington Post accurately described this as her trying “to cover her tracks.”

Republicans largely ducked social issues —and in the 11 principles the GOP outlined for its election strategy, only one vaguely referred to “values” lumping in “traditions of family, life, religious liberty, and hard work.” The rest were about the economy, jobs, education and bread and butter issues. The kind of stuff, supposedly, Republicans would make their focus if elected.

So much for that.

This isn’t what the American people voted for. In the 2014 election polls, the majority of voters said the economy is the most important issue facing the country — not abortion or any kind of social issue. And 50 percent of those who said the economy was their top issue voted for Republicans. Notably, 63 percent of voters overall said our economic system favors the rich—and 35 percent of those voters backed Republicans as well. They’re not looking for the GOP to pander to social conservatives. They’re not looking for ideological crusades. They’re looking for concrete, compromise-based solutions that create jobs and strengthen our economy, especially for working people. But what did the new Republican Congress give them? Five anti-abortion bills.

It’s also worth noting that, among 2014 voters, 52 percent said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Many of those Americans voted for Republicans—24 percent of voters who think abortion should be “legal in all cases” voted for the GOP, as did 41 percent of voters who think abortion should be “legal in most cases.” Republicans are turning their back on these voters and the majority of the American people, 7 in 10 of whom other polls show support legal abortion.

Mitch McConnell’s “serious adults” act like children who can’t keep their hands out of the anti-abortion, reflexively right-wing, out-of-touch moral crusader cookie jar. That is not the “leadership” for which the American people voted, nor the leadership our nation and our economy need. Which is something that, despite all the GOP tricks, “serious voters” notice.