Georgia’s Ralph Reed hopes conference will be a 2024 anti-abortion ‘testosterone booster shot’

A year after the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade, some of the Republican Party’s most influential evangelical Christian voices gather to celebrate a ruling that sent shockwaves through American politics, stripping constitutional protections that endured for nearly half a century.

The Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual conference in Washington is urging GOP presidential candidates to continue campaigning for tougher abortion restrictions, even as Democrats insist the issue will give them a boost ahead of the 2024 election.

Former President Donald Trump, whose three Supreme Court nominees enabled the overturning of the nation’s abortion laws, will deliver the keynote address on Saturday night, the anniversary of the court’s decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. Many of his Republican rivals will speak on Friday, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Ralph Reed, founder and chair of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, based in Duluth, Georgia, said the conference’s dates were negotiated years ago, so the fact that it falls on the Dobbs anniversary is a “chance.”

“But we’re definitely going to do everything we can as an organization and as a pro-life and pro-family movement to give our candidates a little shot of testosterone and tell them not to do it defensively.” ‘ Reed said. “To be honest, if you’re afraid of it, you have to build a backbone.”

Such political encouragement may be needed as Democrats say fighting to uphold abortion rights can strengthen their base and help the party hold the Senate, flip the House and re-elect President Joe Biden. Despite unfavorable historical precedents, Democrats achieved a better-than-expected result in last year’s midterm elections and continue to cite abortion as a key reason.

Even Trump has hinted that strict abortion restrictions are a Republican weakness, posting on his social media page in January that the party’s disappointing mid-term performance was “not my fault” and instead “blaming it on the ‘abortion issue’ that… mishandled by many.” Republicans, especially those who have been adamant about making no exceptions, even in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the mother.”

Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said this week, “Every Republican presidential nominee for 2024 — every single one — is running with an extreme anti-election reference.” and to promote GOP support for a nationwide ban on abortion.

The Supreme Court ruling paved the way for near-total bans in some Republican-run states, although voters in other states rejected constitutional referendums that would have removed virtually all abortion-rights protections. Democrats have vowed to enshrine abortion rights into federal law, but lack the votes in Congress to do so.

Michigan Senator Gary Peters, chair of the Senate Democratic campaign team, said the top Republican presidential candidates would support a statewide abortion ban to win support in their GOP primary and then take a more dovish stance for the general election.

“They’re going to try to get their base excited about the issue and then act like that’s not their position,” Peters said. “They can’t get away with that.”

A poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research last July found that a majority of Americans think Congress should pass legislation guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide. However, the same poll found that many Americans favor certain abortion restrictions, particularly after the first trimester of pregnancy.

Among the GOP candidates, DeSantis and Pence support bans after the sixth week of pregnancy. Scott has backed a 15-week abortion ban, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, speaking at the conference on Saturday, said she supports a nationwide ban but did not say at what point in the pregnancy they are seeking an abortion ban would.

Trump, meanwhile, has avoided specifying what national limits, if any, he would support regarding abortion.

A major anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, has said it would not support any candidate for the White House who does not support at least the passage of a nationwide ban on abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy.

Those attending the gathering will encourage presidential candidates to “change focus and change language” on abortion, Reed said, to “frame the narrative, and not the stages of pregnancy — whether.” Weeks, months or trimesters, which I think is the case.’ Falling into the trap of the left – but talking about the unborn child.’

Pence, an evangelical Christian, is set to speak at the Faith & Freedom Coalition event for the first time since 2021 when he was booed by some and called a “traitor”. This event took place in Florida and came months after the Jan. 6 riot in the US Capitol, when Pence defied Trump’s unprecedented calls to reverse Biden’s 2020 election victory.

The former vice president is also expected to speak at the National Celebrate Life Rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday.

Despite evangelicals’ initial reluctance to support Trump in 2016, Reed said the former president’s administration had a strong abortion record. He said Trump also impressed evangelicals by moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, which supported the evangelical movement due to the area’s deep religious significance.

“I think the bar has been raised and I think the cap will keep going up,” Reed said of evangelical expectations of pro-Israel and anti-abortion presidential primary candidates.

That’s because, he said, candidates understood that “there is no way to get a Republican nomination for president that doesn’t go through the evangelical vote.”