House Speaker Mike Johnson’s anti-abortion bona fides are undisputed, but Thursday night he downplayed the chance of action on a federal abortion ban during an interview with Sean Hannity, asserting there are more pressing issues facing his caucus.
During his initial prime-time interview, he stated that there is no unified agreement on abortion at the national level.
The congressman’s shift in stance was quite drastic, considering he had previously spearheaded multiple bills aimed at limiting abortion across the country. This change reflects the conflicting demands of his new position, which includes maintaining control of the House.
However, those who oppose abortion continue to have high expectations for Johnson.
Certain prominent right-leaning organizations understood these statements as a call to take action, but others saw it as a reflection of the prevailing political landscape in Washington, which goes beyond the divisive issue of federal abortion policy.
According to Tony Perkins, the leader of the Family Research Council, the current speaker has a challenging task of working with a diverse Republican caucus. Perkins has been in constant communication with Johnson before and after his election as speaker. However, Perkins is confident that Johnson will collaborate with Congress to further promote the importance of protecting human life.
increasing border security and reforming the immigration system
Johnson stated to Sean Hannity on Thursday during an interview on Fox that his main focuses are enhancing border protection and revamping the immigration process.
Rewording not possible.
Hannity acknowledged that abortion would not be addressed and that the focus would remain on the previously discussed agenda items. Johnson did not disagree.
However, supporters of the pro-life movement highlighted Johnson’s strong track record of backing their cause as evidence that he will follow through on his promises, regardless of what he may or may not say in interviews. They also recognized that the rest of 2023 will likely be focused on discussions about government expenditures and do not anticipate him introducing comprehensive anti-abortion measures until January at the earliest.
Kristi Hamrick, the chief policy strategist for Students for Life, stated that abortion is a matter that falls under federal jurisdiction. She also mentioned that Johnson holds an “A+” rating on the group’s legislative scorecard. According to Hamrick, this does not mean that there are no actions being taken, but rather that there is a need to get to work.
Although he has supported multiple anti-abortion measures while serving in Congress, such as proposing national bans at six and 15 weeks of pregnancy, Johnson must now handle a divided group of politicians in his caucus. This includes Republicans from districts represented by President Biden who strongly oppose federal limitations on abortion and are not willing to take potentially controversial votes on bills that have no chance of passing in the Senate.
“Is he planning to introduce independent pro-life laws? That remains uncertain. The Senate is unlikely to consider any such measures, but it would highlight the distinctions between the two political parties,” stated Tom McClusky, the government affairs director for Catholic Vote. “However, I often say: you don’t want your friends in positions of power. Eventually, he will have to make choices that may not please all of us.”
Several New York Republicans and other GOP lawmakers in vulnerable districts, who are in areas that typically vote for Democrats, have expressed caution about their colleagues’ attempts to add numerous restrictions on abortion to important spending bills during this term. They have stated that they would also be against any separate bills that aim to limit access to abortion.
Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) joined several other Republicans to block their party’s agriculture funding bill on the House floor last month over a provision banning mail delivery of abortion pills.
According to Will Kiley, spokesperson for LaLota, the Congressman acknowledges that abortion is a matter for individual states to decide and reiterates his stance against any laws that would go against the wishes of New York voters and try to bypass the Dobbs ruling.
According to Jesse Southerland, who serves as the federal affairs director for Americans United for Life, there is potential to overcome the resistance of Republican lawmakers to federal abortion bans through increased education efforts.
“It is the responsibility of the pro-life movement to take action,” he stated. “Members of Congress are faced with numerous issues to address, and many of them may not be fully informed.”
On Friday, Southerland and other leaders against abortion stated that they will closely monitor Johnson’s actions in the following months to see how he supports their cause. They mentioned that passing individual votes on anti-abortion bills is just one of their requests. They also want Johnson to urge his group to hold additional hearings on the matter, file more amicus briefs in favor of lawsuits against the Biden administration’s abortion policies, and use the upcoming government budget discussions to promote restrictions on abortion.
Melanie Israel, a Heritage Foundation policy analyst, stated that the top priority for everyone is the spending bills. She emphasized the need for strong leadership in this area, as most members are eager to make progress with pro-life measures rather than simply maintaining the current situation.
However, according to two Republican congressmen who requested anonymity to discuss internal conference matters, there is little support for passing any standalone bills during this current Congress.
One of the members stated, “I do not believe there are enough votes for a 15-week federal abortion ban, especially knowing it will not pass in the Senate.”