Conservatives finally overturned Roe. They aren’t talking about it at CPAC

Some anti-abortion activists say Republicans are avoiding talking about abortion after the midterms, Eric Garcia reports.

Sunday 05 March 2023 00:34 GMT
(Getty Images)

The last time that the Conservative Political Action Conference convened just outside of Washington DC in 2020, conservatives still had only a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court. Just months later, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death created an opening on the high court, which led to Donald Trump nominating Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Then in June 2022, the new 6-3 Supreme Court majority announced Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned the right to seek an abortion enshrined in Roe v Wade. Indeed, the prospect of conservative Supreme Court nominations helped galvanise Republicans to line up behind Mr Trump in 2016.

“It was the reason the judiciary was on the ballot in ‘16,” Hogan Gidley, who served as deputy press secretary in the Trump administration, told The Independent. “We had lost so many of these rulings.”

But at the most recent CPAC gathering at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Oxon Hill, few people mentioned the Dobbs decision. The ruling ended up backfiring to some extent for the GOP.

As the first day of the conference got underway earlier this week, CPAC head Matt Schlapp and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan agreed that the demise of Roe was a positive development but quickly moved past it to discuss other topics.

In fact, only one CPAC panel – entitled “Some Tuff Mutha...” – discussed abortion at length. It featured anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, who once worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic and now runs And Then There Were None, which aims to move women away from working at the organisation; Kimberly Fletcher, founder of the conservative Moms for America; and Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America. During that panel, they discussed medication abortion and Ms Johnson said how the Dobbs decision didn’t have an effect in many states like California, where abortion is legal.

Many conservative activists and elected officials, including Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, instead focused more on LGBT+ issues and accused activists of targeting and even “grooming” children.

The groups featured on the panel still had some booths on the lower level, along with various conservative organisations.

Ms Fletcher told The Independent that she wished more people talked about abortion at the conference.

“Because if our future is our children, then I think that we should be talking a lot more about the solutions on how we take back the future,” she said. “It's kind of like a big, you know, pep rally.”

“We would love there to be more talks about the pro-life ... because now that it has gone to the states, it's a big fight,” Ms Fletcher told The Independent. “And quite honestly, it's not done on the national level either.”

The more tepid celebration of the end of Roe came after Republicans underperformed in the 2020 midterm elections, months after the Supreme Court’s ruling. The conservative movement’s overturning of Roe served as a major motivator for young liberal voters, who turned out in droves and delivered Democrats a Senate seat in Pennsylvania as well as staving off a “red wave” in the House of Representatives.

“Unfortunately, a lot of politicians are scared to talk about it, because in this last election cycle, we did not see good results on the abortion issue,” said Kelly Lester, who was working the And Then There Were None booth.

But not everyone is avoiding the issue. Mr Gidley said that when he travelled the country, Mr Trump’s mention’s of abortion attracted the most applause at his rallies.

“It may not be top of mind right now because we won it,” he said. “Now it’s a feather in your cap.”

On the last day, commentator Michael Knowles said that “there can be no middle way with transgenderism” and called for “eradicating transgendering from public life” and connected the issue to Republican efforts to restrict abortion.

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