At Wisconsin GOP convention, Ron Johnson urges party faithful to unify on abortion (2024)

APPLETON – Wisconsin's top Republican urged the battleground state's party faithful to unify their position on the abortion in order to win in November, warning Democrats will seek to make the 2024 presidential election a referendum on the issue.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in a speech to the Republican Party of Wisconsin's state convention in Appleton sought to frame the issue in a misleading argument as protecting abortion policy from becoming one that allows infanticide.

He cited broad congressional Democratic support for a bill that would have barred government restrictions on abortion access that would allow abortion access up until the point of fetal viability, which is roughly reached at 24 weeks of pregnancy, and would allow the procedure to take place after 24 weeks only if a doctor determined continuing a pregnancy would pose a risk to the mother's health or life. Johnson has characterized these policies as supporting abortions "up to the moment of birth."

Johnson said Republicans should unify on the issue or face more ballot losses.

"I said this election is about it's a referendum on democratic governance, not what the Democrats are going to turn it into, which is referendum on abortion," Johnson said.

"Within the Republican Party, we have a broad spectrum ... and I have complete respect for people who, because I think we all agree that life begins at conception, want to protect life," Johnson said. "I completely respect that. But that's not where probably most Americans, most Wisconsinites, and probably even most Republicans land."

"I know people don't like what I'm saying. Many people in this room do not like what I am saying. I'm just laying out the reality of the situation because in the end, we have to win elections."

More: Voters should be shown what 'abortion looks like at every stage of pregnancy,' Sen. Ron Johnson says

Johnson's comments come as Republicans seek to boost former President Donald Trump on an issue created by members of the U.S. Supreme Court he appointed when they overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

In the most-recent Marquette University Law School poll, Trump and President Joe Biden are in a tight race within the margin of error. Biden has focused heavily on the issue of abortion as he campaigns against Trump.

Wisconsin Republicans have struggled to combat the political effects of the ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, which effectively put back into place a law that had been interpreted for more than a century to ban all abortions except when the mother would die without one. Abortion has become a central issue in races in Wisconsin since.

The issue of abortion was central to the 2022 midterm elections in Wisconsin and the 2023 state Supreme Court race, leading to victories for Democratic and liberal candidates who made the issue a focus of their campaigns.

In a recent Marquette University Law School poll, 24% of Democratic voters said they consider abortion their most important issue in deciding who to vote for, followed by the economy. For independent and Republican voters, 5% of those groups saw abortion as their top issue.

While abortion was the leading issue among Democratic participants, the economy was the No. 1 issue for all respondents in the survey, followed by immigration and abortion policy. Voters saw Democratic President Joe Biden better at handling abortion and health care, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump better on the economy and immigration.

At Wisconsin GOP convention, Ron Johnson urges party faithful to unify on abortion (2)

A majority of registered voters in Wisconsin, 54%, also said theystrongly or somewhat favor a national ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape, incest and the life and health of the mother.

In the same poll, 64% of voters said they believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 35% said it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Johnson previouslysupported legislation in 2011declaring the right to life starts at fertilization and has repeatedly co-sponsoredfederal legislationthat would ban abortion 20 weeks after fertilization.

Following the overturning of Roe, Johnson suggested voters should be able toweigh in on the question, "At what point does society have the responsibility to protect the life of an unborn child?"with options ranging from banning abortion at the moment of conception, toeach month of pregnancy up until the eighth month or "never."

In April, Johnson also suggested voters weighing their position should be shown what abortion looks like at every stage of pregnancy.

"We need to understand, first of all, what an abortion looks like at every stage of pregnancy. We've not had that discussion, which is why I recommended a referendum to ask that question: at what point does society have the responsibility to protect life?" Johnson told reporters at the time.

Molly Beck can be reached at

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ron Johnson urges GOP to unify on abortion or face election losses

At Wisconsin GOP convention, Ron Johnson urges party faithful to unify on abortion (2024)
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