Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion on CNN.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton reportedly fled his home to avoid being served with a subpoena in a case filed by abortion rights groups seeking to expand access in the state, where abortion is almost entirely criminalized. While Paxton denies he was running from the subpoena, his little sprint is the perfect metaphor for Republican politicians and abortion rights: Many of them are running away from the very scenario they created and the very laws they’ve promoted.
According to the Texas Tribune, process server Ernesto Martin Herrera said in a sworn affidavit that he knocked on Paxton’s front door and introduced himself to Paxton’s wife, only to be told that the attorney general was unavailable because he was on a phone call and “in a hurry to leave.” Herrera added in his statement that he told her he would wait.
More than an hour later, as Paxton exited the home through the garage, Herrera said he approached him. “As soon as he saw me and heard me call his name out, he turned around and RAN back inside the house through the same door in the garage.”
Minutes later, said Herrera, Paxton and his wife exited the house again, climbed into a truck parked in their driveway and drove off without taking the document.
Paxton, for his part, doesn’t dispute that he ran. But he says he ran from a shady stranger outside of his house, and not from the subpoena. “This is a ridiculous waste of time and the media should be ashamed of themselves,” Paxton tweeted. “All across the country, conservatives have faced threats to their safety – many threats that received scant coverage or condemnation from the mainstream media.”
He continued, “It’s clear that the media wants to drum up another controversy involving my work as Attorney General, so they’re attacking me for having the audacity to avoid a stranger lingering outside my home and showing concern about the safety and well-being of my family.”
Paxton makes a fair point: It’s awfully scary to have your privacy invaded, and infuriating when people try to interfere when you are trying to protect your own safety and the well-being of your family. Women in Texas can certainly relate.
For other Republicans, the running away they’re doing when it comes to abortion is less literal, but still telling.
Arizona’s Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters used to champion fetal personhood laws, which would fully criminalize abortion and potentially IVF as well, along with some forms of contraception; recently, though, that information was deleted from his website.
Mark Ronchetti, who is challenging New Mexico’s Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said that “life should be protected – at all stages” on his campaign website last election cycle; now, he is putting out ads saying, “I’m personally pro-life, but I believe we can all come together on a policy that reflects our shared values,” and saying he thinks New Mexicans would support outlawing abortion only after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Republican running in Colorado, also removed her support for “defending the sanctity of life” from her website, along with a video of her speaking at the 2022 March for Life.
And while many leading Republicans on the national stage do indeed support extreme abortion bans, and many have pledged their support to the GOP-led bill to outlaw abortion nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy, many are nonetheless angry that members of their party are raising this issue at all. Even many of the staunchest Republican abortion opponents, including Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who is running for governor of the state, are trying to change the subject – to crime, to the economy.
This now seems to be an emerging GOP strategy on abortion: Duck, avoid, run.
Americans do not support broad abortion bans. When you poll voters, even many who identify as pro-life and vote Republican, and even majorities in conservative states, hedge when it comes to actually criminalizing abortion.
Instead of following the will of voters, though, Republicans are trying to have it both ways, restricting abortion rights to please their extremist base, but refusing be held accountable to the broader voting public.
Republicans got their way on abortion: After decades of conservative efforts, the Supreme Court overturned the right of American women in all 50 states to decide whether and when to have children. Now, conservative states are broadly outlawing abortion and imposing severe criminal penalties for abortion providers. Some conservative men, including some in elected office, even want to put women in prison for murder if they end their pregnancies.
These laws are wildly unpopular, and they may cost Republicans at the ballot box. The solution is simple: Stop penning and passing wildly unpopular laws. So far, though, Republicans continue to do just that – and then they raise their hands in a cartoonish “it wasn’t me!” gesture when pressed on it.
Or, they run.
But make no mistake: Once in office, anti-abortion Republicans will not in fact focus on crime and the economy and ignore abortion rights. They will continue to do what they have always done: Attempt to restrict abortion rights, and imperil women’s rights more broadly. That they don’t want to answer for their actions isn’t a sign of moderation, but of cowardice. In November, voters shouldn’t let them get away with it.