In 2020, Monica De La Cruz was, like most Republican candidates for office, a vocal opponent of abortion rights. Campaigning for a swing U.S. House seat in south Texas that year, De La Cruz proclaimed her belief that human life begins at conception. On her campaign website’s issues page, “Pro-Life” was listed at the top.
“As your Congresswoman I promise to fight for each and every soul and to always support the sanctity of life,” she wrote.
Now, four years later, De La Cruz is an incumbent congresswoman running to keep her seat in a competitive race. But on her campaign website, you won’t find her absolutist anti-abortion position. In fact, you won’t find any mention of abortion anywhere on De La Cruz’s website at all.
Across three election cycles since 2020, De La Cruz appears to have gradually scrubbed abortion-related content from her online platform, making the language more ambiguous and less prominent until it disappeared, according to a Daily Beast review of internet archives.
By February 2022, for instance, “Pro-Life” was no longer a listed issue on her campaign site. It was replaced instead by a “Constitutional Values” section where she vaguely promised to fight for “the Right to Life,” along with vowing to “stand strong for our Second Amendment” and ensure “true Freedom of Speech is protected.”
Now, ahead of what will likely be a competitive re-election race, De La Cruz’s website currently contains no abortion language whatsoever.
In 2020, De La Cruz lost to Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), but when he changed districts in 2022, she easily defeated her Democratic opponent. Texas’ 15th District, which Donald Trump won by 3 points in 2020, is currently rated as “competitive” in 2024 by the Cook Political Report.
Approached on Wednesday in the Capitol, De La Cruz insisted to The Daily Beast that anti-abortion advocacy remains “a very important issue for us and for our district”—one that she “absolutely” plans to highlight this cycle. She said the removal of abortion references may be due to work on a “campaign site launch,” but advised The Daily Beast to follow up with her campaign.
When the Daily Beast reached out to De La Cruz’s campaign to ask, campaign manager Andrew Baughman simply said, “We have nothing to add to her statement.”
The abortion issue’s disappearing act on De La Cruz’s website is a tidy example of broader Republican efforts to change the conversation on a losing issue. Since the Supreme Court revoked the national right to an abortion in 2022, Republicans have lost races across the country—including in GOP strongholds—as Democrats brand candidates as agents of an extreme anti-abortion agenda.
Ahead of 2024, Democrats intend to lean heavily on that playbook as an electoral silver bullet. By tapping into continued voter alarm over abortion access, the party’s candidates and various campaign arms are banking they can not only win seats like De La Cruz’s and re-capture the House, but keep the Senate and potentially re-elect an unpopular President Joe Biden.
Vulnerable Republicans now face a pivotal decision on how to handle the issue: champion their long-held anti-abortion positions on the trail and face voter wrath at the polls, or skirt the subject and abandon an issue critical to much of the GOP base.
The freshman Republican is not the only politician to get caught scrubbing their website of anti-abortion language or content. Ahead of the 2022 election, several GOP candidates for office—such as Blake Masters in Arizona and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania—did the same thing.
Last year, Pennsylvania state Rep. Rob Mercuri, who is seeking to challenge freshman Rep. Chris DeLuzio (D-PA) in a Pittsburgh-area swing seat, was busted by a graduate student for removing any mention of abortion from his website.
De La Cruz’s changes, of course, did not happen in a vacuum. They track closely with the rise in voter backlash to conservative efforts to roll back abortion rights, both nationally and in her home state of Texas.
In September 2021, before De La Cruz modified the abortion language on her site for the first time, Texas Republicans’ S.B. 8, which banned abortion in the state after five weeks of pregnancy, took effect. The legislation dominated local news cycles for weeks.
By February 2022, the nation braced for a potentially seismic ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson, which the Supreme Court heard in December 2021. With a conservative court primed to overturn Roe v. Wade, political operatives on both sides were preparing to fight out a 2022 midterm campaign around the issue of abortion access and the GOP’s efforts to roll them back.
Of course, that’s exactly what happened—and that November, Democrats delivered stinging defeats to Republicans in an election which was predicted to be a “red wave.” Sorting through the disappointing results, many Republicans publicly called for the party to figure out a better way to communicate with voters about their positions, resulting in plenty of debate and finger-pointing between factions of the party.
De La Cruz, apparently, has decided—at least for now—that saying nothing about abortion on her campaign platform is better than saying anything.
That approach goes against the latest advice from National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Richard Hudson (R-NC), who is tasked with protecting the GOP’s House majority in 2024. As Republicans defend themselves from a blitz of Democratic attacks casting them as anti-abortion zealots, Hudson told Punchbowl News in a recent interview that Republicans need to be upfront about where they stand.
“[Candidates] need to articulate their position to the voters, because the voters think the Republican position is like, ‘We’ll throw you in jail if you get an abortion,’” Hudson told Punchbowl.
In 2020, even before the abortion rights groundswell, De La Cruz’ pro-life rhetoric didn’t seem to help her win. In her first campaign that year, she lost to Gonzalez by roughly 3 points.
De La Cruz campaigned on a staunchly pro-life platform, hitting Gonzalez for his votes with Democrats on abortion-related issues. In a 2020 Facebook rant De La Cruz called “Truthful Tuesday,” she touted her endorsement from National Right to Life, a lead anti-abortion organization, and suggested Gonzalez was a “sicko” for his vote against a GOP anti-abortion messaging bill.
Like most states, Texas redrew congressional district lines ahead of the 2022 midterms. Gonzalez moved to a neighboring district, paving the way for De La Cruz to beat Democrat Michelle Vallejo by 9 points.
While in office, De La Cruz has consistently backed Republican-led anti-abortion policies—all of which have been stonewalled by the Senate’s Democratic majority. For her voting record, she nabbed an A+ rating from anti-abortion advocacy group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
This cycle, Vallejo is running again—one of several Democrats vying to challenge De La Cruz —and hitting her hard on abortion.
“It’s not right for politicians like [Texas Gov.] Greg Abbott or Monica De La Cruz or [Texas Sen.] Ted Cruz to be involved in these very private decisions,” Vallejo said in a recent interview with Roll Call.