ATLANTA -- With no immediate hope of overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing abortion, Republicans around the country are increasingly pushing legislation to restrict the procedure, and Democrats say they'll make the GOP pay in coming elections.
From statehouses to Congress, Republicans have advanced a range of ideas: banning nearly all abortions beyond the 20th week after conception; making abortion clinics follow regulations for surgical care; mandating that clinic physicians have admitting privileges at local hospitals; requiring women to get ultrasounds before terminating a pregnancy.
The issue, figuring prominently in early maneuvering for the 2016 White House race, is energizing social conservatives who influence many Republican primaries and drive GOP success in nonpresidential years when the electorate is older, whiter and more conservative. And some Republicans say more moderate voters will support their agenda following the murder conviction of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor who jurors determined killed babies who'd survived the procedure.
But Democrats and abortion-rights advocates say Republicans already have overreached and that moderate voters have other priorities.
"Defense workers are being furloughed, student loan interest rates have doubled and these Republicans insist on a relentless pursuit of more restrictions on women's freedoms," said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), chairman of the Democrats' national congressional campaign for 2014. "Swing voters are by their very nature moderate; they want solutions, not ideological warfare."
The House of Representatives adopted a 20-week ban in June, but it has no chance of passing the Democratic-run Senate. Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, told The Associated Press that her organization is working on a bill with the office of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is a high-profile possibility for the 2016 presidential race.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which works on reproductive health issues including abortion rights, states this year have enacted at least 43 new laws that restrict or further regulate abortion. That comes after more than 120 new laws, several held up by federal courts, the previous two years.