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    Democrats blast Texas abortion pill ruling as Republicans are mostly quiet

    Democrats warned Saturday of the repercussions of a federal judge’s decision to suspend the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a key abortion medication, as they assailed Republicans’ support for restricting access to abortions and predicted political fallout.

    Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the decision “awful, extreme and unprecedented,” and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said it was “the result of a decades-long effort by Republicans to ban abortion in every part of this country any way they can.” Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said in a statement that the ruling was “simply bulls–t.”

    The outrage from Democrats began Friday night in the immediate aftermath of the decision by Texas-based U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, and they vowed to take any steps they could to protect access to mifepristone, the medication used in more than half of all abortions in the United States.

    Republicans, meanwhile, have remained largely silent.

    The split screen of reactions reflects how much the politics around abortion have transformed in the last year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Strategists in both parties believe that anger over abortion bans helped sink Republicans in critical races in the midterms, and Democrats are making the issue central to their attacks on declared and potential candidates for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.

    “Republicans are completely out of step,” said Emmy Ruiz, the White House director of political strategy and outreach. “It is not just what they say. It is what they do, and they have not stopped fighting to take away rights from women.”

    The long-term status of Americans’ access to mifepristone remains unclear. The Texas decision does not go into effect for seven days, and a judge in Washington state ordered the FDA to preserve the “status quo.” He ruled in a competing opinion late Friday that the drug is safe and effective.

    But in the political positioning on the issue, Democrats are eager to place abortion rights at the center of their campaigns, while Republicans remain divided over how much to lean into an issue that has galvanized some of their voters for decades.

    “It guarantees that abortion is going to be on the ballot again in 2024,” Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, said of the Texas decision. “There had been some people that said it would die down after 2022, but this will re-energize the pro-choice side.”

    Lake predicted that trend would continue to help Democrats as abortion restrictions have led to increased turnout from younger women and suburban women, who have increasingly backed Democrats since Roe was overturned.

    Schumer said Republicans’ silence on the decision stems from their recognition that abortion restrictions are unpopular with a broad swath of Americans, including Republicans.

    “They’re afraid to speak out, but that is outrageous,” he told reporters Saturday on a call with Murray about the ruling. “They are letting the MAGA extreme wing of their party and the MAGA extreme wing of the right-wing movements run the whole show. And they have an obligation to speak out or they are complicit in taking away mifepristone from tens of millions of Americans. Plain and simple.”

    A poll from the Marquette University Law School last month found that 67 percent of Americans opposed the high court’s decision to overturn Roe, while 33 percent were in favor of it.

    Former vice president Mike Pence, who is considering a presidential run, stood out among Republicans on Friday night for his quick praise of the abortion pill ruling.

    “Life won again today,” he said in a statement, accusing the FDA of acting “carelessly and with blatant disregard for human life” in approving mifepristone in 2000.

    But former president Donald Trump, who helped pave the way to overturning Roe with his Supreme Court appointments, did not weigh in. Trump angered some antiabortion activists early this year when he declared on Truth Social: “It was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions … that lost large numbers of Voters.”

    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is gearing up for a presidential run and who polls second behind Trump among Republican primary voters, has also been quiet on the ruling and the broader issue of abortion. But he could find the topic increasingly hard to sidestep: He is expected to sign a bill making its way through the Florida legislature that would ban most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

    The six-week limit — which would restrict abortions before many realize they are pregnant — goes further than a 15-week ban that DeSantis signed last year. It will give DeSantis one more legislative victory to promote in a presidential primary, but some Republicans worry it could come back to haunt him and other GOP candidates in a general election.

    Laural Wilson, an independent voter in Tallahassee who has backed Republicans in recent years, welcomed restrictions on abortion, including Florida’s proposed ban. She believes life begins at conception. But, she said, abortion is not major driver of her vote, and she was most concerned with preventing later-term abortions. Mifepristone is administered in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

    Nearby, Lorraine Carter was dismayed at both the Texas ruling and the impending six-week ban in Florida.

    “They want to meddle in females’ business, and what we should do in our body — leave it the hell alone,” said Carter, a Democrat, predicting that Republicans would pay for their stances on abortion in 2024.

    Republicans’ anxieties ratcheted up this week after Democrats took control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday, with Janet Protasiewicz, who was backed by the Democratic Party, winning by 11 percentage points in a swing state where the fall of Roe paved the way for a near-total ban on abortion. Protasiewicz made abortion rights central to her message, and she is expected to help the court reverse the ban.

    “The Texas decision makes vivid that if Republicans gain control of the federal government in 2024, they will stomp out reproductive freedom by any means at their disposal,” said Ben Wikler, the chair of Wisconsin’s Democratic Party. “But as Wisconsin’s election … demonstrates, when freedom is on the line, voters rise up.”

    Even voters in traditionally conservative states have rejected efforts to roll back abortion rights. In August, voters in Kansas blocked an effort that would have stripped abortion protections from the state constitution, and in November, voters in Kentucky rejected a ballot measure that would have amended the state’s constitution to explicitly say it does not protect abortion rights.

    Inside the White House, officials had been preparing for weeks for the decision, and lawyers pored over the ruling Friday night as the Justice Department quickly filed an appeal.

    Attorney General Merrick Garland said the decision in Texas “overturns the FDA’s expert judgment, rendered over two decades ago, that mifepristone is safe and effective. The Department will continue to defend the FDA’s decision.” The conflicting decisions in Texas and Washington on Friday night will probably expedite the need for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter.

    Last summer, some Democrats criticized the White House for what they felt was a slow-footed response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. The draft decision had leaked two months earlier, and in the days following the ruling, Democrats argued that Biden, who has long been personally uncomfortable and at times out of step with his party on abortion, failed to meet the moment and channel the outrage that millions of Americans felt after losing what they considered a fundamental right.

    In the ensuing months, however, Biden and Vice President Harris, who became the administration’s point person on abortion, traveled the country to speak out against bans and have called on Congress to codify Roe. Biden also has signed executive orders to protect a woman’s right to travel to receive reproductive care and to strengthen privacy measures.

    Senior administration officials said Saturday that they expected Biden and Harris to continue to center abortion rights and highlight the contrast between Democrats and Republicans on the issue.

    “The only way to stop those who are committed to taking away women’s rights and freedoms in every state is to elect a Congress who will pass a law restoring Roe versus Wade,” Biden said in a statement Friday night. “Vice President Harris and I will continue to lead the fight to protect a woman’s right to an abortion, and to make her own decisions about her own health. That is our commitment.”

    Knowles reported from Tallahassee. Scott Clement contributed to this report.



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