WASHINGTON — Republicans have spent decades attacking the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, but with the overthrow of Roe v. Wade seemingly imminent, their leaders in Congress and across the globe are The country has suddenly gone silent on the issue as part of an effort to avoid a backlash against their party in the run-up to the by-elections.

Notably, in the days after a draft Supreme Court opinion leaked that would overturn the 50-year precedent, Republicans in Congress have waived a round of victory for helping install the conservative majority that paved the way for such a result.

Even as some of their state-level counterparts rush with sweeping abortion bans that could affect even some contraceptive methods, Republicans seem determined to reform their stance on the issue as a moderate and take voters’ eyes away from their anti-abortion policies. rights calendar.

“You have to — I think, excuse the reading — to focus on what today’s news is,” Republican leader Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. “Not a leaked draft, but the fact that the draft was leaked.”

Republicans’ caution reflects the potential for the eventual ruling to change the political landscape in the medium term. Their leaders and candidates have mounted a campaign to regain control of the House and Senate around inflation, economic uncertainty, crime, border control and American doubts that President Biden, who is deeply unpopular, can set the record straight.

Now, the prospect of abolishing abortion rights has added a tectonic shift in American life, threatening to disrupt that focus.

Democrats have indicated that they intend to use the coming decision as a rallying cry for voters to reject the Republicans, portraying its implications as huge and unacceptable.

“This is an issue that defines this country today, and if the American people don’t stand up for equality for every American right now, we’re undermining the right to privacy in more than this context,” he said. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York. She raised the specter of a conservative Supreme Court going after same-sex marriage, same-sex consensual relationships and even contraception if the decision stands.

Republicans, on the other hand, believe their candidates’ job right now is to stay focused on the economy and not allow another problem — specifically one that affects suburban independent voters, whose support they need to to win congressional majorities – could alienate them.

“Big picture, tell me what the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will be and if anything has improved with gas and groceries, and I’ll tell you the results,” said Corry Bliss, a veteran strategist who advises Republican candidates. “That’s what the midterms are about — period, end of discussion.”

Republicans talk about abortion, just not openly. A document circulated by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and obtained by Axios urged candidates to be calm on the matter, with a post-Roe America looming as early as next month.

“Abortion should be avoided as much as possible,” the document advised candidates to say. “States should have the flexibility to impose reasonable restrictions.”

Republicans don’t want to throw doctors and women in jail, the document continues. They certainly don’t want to take away contraception. And if a party is extreme, it has instructed Republicans to claim that it is the Democrats who do not accept even modest restrictions on abortion that most Americans support.

The approach is calculated to take advantage of the fact that Democrats, outraged by the ruling but powerless to do anything about it, are planning a token vote that puts their party on the map against nearly all abortion limits. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats will try — and likely fail — to pass legislation that would not only codify the right to abortion, but also remove restrictions passed by the courts.

“The Democrats are going to make it easy for us,” said Mallory Carroll, vice president of communications at Susan B. Anthony List, who works to elect officials who oppose abortion rights. She called the Democrats’ Women’s Health Protection Act “far beyond the US mainstream.”

And “mainstream” is how the Republican campaign guns want their candidates to present themselves — as gentle, compassionate, “consensus builders,” as the talking points put it.

“I’m pro-life, but this isn’t about political labels,” the documents suggest Republican candidates say. “I believe all Americans want us to welcome every child into the world with open arms. But if you don’t agree with me, my door is always open.”

Governors such as Brian Kemp of Georgia and Ron DeSantis of Florida have said relatively little on the matter since the draft advisory was issued.

Even former President Donald J. Trump, who campaigned in 2016 to appoint Supreme Court justices to overthrow Roe, has refrained from gloating.

“Nobody knows exactly what it represents,” he told Politico, calling the leak of the advice “a terrible thing for the court and for the country.

“We’ll talk about it after we know what the final version is,” he said.

It’s still possible the court won’t go as far as the draft. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the leak was authentic but warned the decision was not final.

Yet the problem for Republican leaders in Washington who want to downplay the implications of the potential ruling is the very clear message from their party’s state lawmakers about the severe restrictions many would impose if there were no longer a constitutional right to abortion. stand .

On Wednesday, lawmakers in Louisiana pushed forward legislation that would do exactly what the Washington Talkbacks deny: grant constitutional rights to “all unborn children from conception” and classify abortion as murder. In fact, such a law could put women and doctors in jail and ban certain forms of birth control, such as IUDs or morning-after pills, that block the implantation of a fertilized egg.

Republicans in South Dakota, Indiana and Nebraska have called for special sessions of their legislatures to pass strict abortion bans once a final decision is announced.

And for all the caution Republican strategists might advise, there’s still the passion of the problem. New Hampshire State Representative Susan DeLemus was filmed Thursday responding to abortion rights protesters at the state capitol in Concord, NH, by yelling that they were “murderers.”

To some extent, abortion opponents say they are truly in a moment of unreality. Carol Tobias, chair of the National Right to Life Committee, said she had been preparing for a good night’s sleep in her Albuquerque home when news of the draft advisory first broke. She said she thought someone was playing a prank on the reporters.

Even now she says to be careful.

“What came out earlier this week is three months old,” she said. “I sure hope it’s the final version, but I’ve been told it isn’t. It is still possible that one or two judges have changed positions.”

Republicans say their reticence on the matter makes sense. Texas has had an almost complete abortion ban for eight months and apparently no political price has been paid so far.

State Representative Gene Wu, a Democrat from Houston, said he is concerned that in Republican states that live with steadily increasing restrictions on reproductive rights, the response to Roe’s overthrow could be as muted as it was in Texas, and that in Democrats. states, voters are reassured that their rights are safe.

“This is done so step by step, it’s like there’s a learned helplessness. We have taken so much abuse; what’s a little more?” he said, comparing women in states like Texas to the frog in the boiling pot of water. “I hope that’s not the case.”

Perhaps another factor mitigating the backlash is the increasing popularity of long-term birth control methods, such as IUDs, and increased access to birth control in general, which has helped reduce the number of abortions in the nation in recent years and more women. has given a sense of reproductive safety .

A 10-year-old study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that the percentage of women of reproductive age using long-acting reversible contraception had risen steadily, from 2.4 percent in 2002 to 8.5 percent in 2009. .6 percent in 2012. The figure is now about 12 percent, said Dr. Nisha Verma, a university fellow and a gynecologist in Washington, DC

“The need for abortion will never go away,” said Dr. Verma, however, she added, “We have certainly seen that people have been able to take more control over their reproductive health.”

Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a 21.6 percent increase in the use of such contraception in the months following Mr Trump’s election in 2016, with his vows to install judges who would overthrow Roe. bring.

Emily Cochrane reporting contributed.

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