Jaymie Carter (from left), Betsy Benac, Carol Whitmore, and Misty Servia of Manatee County, Florida, are all Republicans campaigning against their GOP governor’s strict abortion ban. (Photo by Octavio Jones for The Free Press)

How Abortion Became ‘the Defund the Police of the GOP’

Republican leaders thought they’d be rewarded for overturning Roe. Instead, conservative voters tell Olivia Reingold, it could lead to a backlash come Election Day.

Yesterday, we brought you stories of Americans moving right in liberal parts of the country. Today, on Super Tuesday, we bring you the mirror image: Republicans in red states who find themselves at odds with their own party’s approach to pro-life legislation.   

These crosscurrents are part of the great scramble going on in American politics right now—and we’ll be looking for evidence of its impact when we pick through the Super Tuesday results in our morning newsletter tomorrow. 

But first, here’s Olivia Reingold’s eye-opening report on the Republicans breaking with their party on abortion.

When Kelley Stafford, a 37-year-old lifelong Republican in Trussville, Alabama, first read the headline—“Alabama Supreme Court rules frozen embryos are ‘children’ under state law”—she figured it was a win for Christians like herself. 

“That’s wonderful!!!” she texted her mother about the ruling, as she helped her two-year-old son into bed. 

Stafford, who conceived her son through IVF in 2021 after eight years of trying, says she figured the Supreme Court was simply giving “test tube babies,” which account for three percent of all U.S. births annually, their due respect. 

Kelley Stafford at first celebrated Alabama’s IVF ruling—until she realized the destruction of her eight frozen embryos under the new law could be considered a criminal act. (Photo courtesy of Kelley Stafford)

“Being pro-life, I’m like, ‘Great, they’re just viewing those as our babies,’ because you do kind of feel that way when you’re going through IVF, that this is my baby, even though it’s not in my womb yet,” she told me. 

But, later that night, when she read more about the ruling, she learned that her eight embryos, which are still in a freezer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, would no longer be treated as her property. Instead, the state now considered them living children. And disposing of them could, in theory, lead to criminal charges. 

“I think it’s ridiculous that anyone would say that an embryo is a child, even though I love my little ‘embabies,’ ” she tells me. “But I just don’t see how anyone could say it’s the same as my son that’s sitting in my house right now.”

Her original plan was to donate her remaining embryos to science, but now, she worries that doing so could be considered a form of manslaughter. At the same time, she’s beginning to wonder if the pro-life movement that she’s supported her whole life has gone too far. 

“You’re restricting people that really want a family, putting even more restrictions on them and making it harder,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that’s a pro-life decision.” 

Like the dozen other Republicans I spoke to for this story, Stafford is starting to think twice about who she votes for this year. Of the nine justices on Alabama’s Supreme Court, all are Republicans, and seven of them decided in favor of the IVF ruling. But come November, there will be five seats up for grabs, and one of the candidates is a Democrat.

When I ask Stafford if she will support any of those Republican justices come Election Day, she doesn’t miss a beat. 

“No,” she snaps. “I don’t want to vote for those people.” 

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