The Anti-Abortion Agenda Hiding In The GOP's Platform | Crooked Media
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July 09, 2024
What A Day
The Anti-Abortion Agenda Hiding In The GOP's Platform

In This Episode

  • Republicans appeared to soften their stance on abortion ahead of next week’s party convention and adopted a policy platform this week that didn’t include a call for a federal ban. They did so at the direct request of former President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly tried to downplay the issue during the campaign while also taking credit for ending Roe v. Wade. But the 16-page policy document opens the door to establishing fetal personhood, which would threaten access to abortion and IVF. Shefali Luthra, who covers reproductive health for The 19th News and is author of “Undue Burden,” explains what’s actually in the Republican platform.
  • And in headlines: President Biden commemorated NATO’s 75th anniversary in opening remarks at the alliance’s summit in Washington, Congressional Democrats appear to be falling in line behind Biden as the party’s presidential nominee, and an Israeli airstrike killed more than two dozen people in southern Gaza on Tuesday.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, July 10th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What a Day. The pod that knows exes can stay on good terms sometimes, I guess I don’t know about that, but seriously, Marla Maples? Really? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Trump’s ex-wife, Marla Maples, told the Evening Standard that she’s willing to help his campaign. That’s not so weird. But she went on to say that she could even do so by being his pick for VP. 


Juanita Tolliver Ma’am? 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m sorry. What? [music break] On today’s show, a Biden campaign surrogate says that the president needs to be more honest with the people and to offer a way forward. Plus, forecasters raise a flag that this hurricane season could be even worse because of the damage caused by Hurricane Beryl. 


Juanita Tolliver But first today, more on the GOP’s new Make America Great Again platform. We talked about this on yesterday’s show. The 16 page text is a proposal that the party will vote to approve next week during its convention. It leans heavily into Trump’s America First agenda, and the way it mentions abortion is similar to how the former president talks about it. Vague and honestly terrifying. We wanted to do a deeper dive on this platform, what it means for voters and how it sets up the Republican National Convention next week. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. So what’s different about this document from past policy platforms? 


Juanita Tolliver For starters, 16 pages is pretty short, definitely shorter than the 66 pages Republicans put forth in 2016. And it’s written like a Trump rally speech or even a Truth Social post with all these random capitalizations. It’s obvious how ingrained Trump is, not only in the party’s agenda, but in the way they write and talk. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, the brain rot starts at the top and has trickled down through the party. 


Juanita Tolliver Everybody’s infected.


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s not good. 


Juanita Tolliver And of course, abortion wasn’t as much of a big talking point as it was before. This current platform really hones in on boosting military security at the southern border, restricting education funding and anti-trans policies. The thing is, abortion is a losing issue for Republicans. We know this. If anything, this platform shows that they know it, too. I wanted to talk to someone who has been covering all of this more closely, so I called up Shefali Luthra. She’s a reporter for the 19th news, where she covers reproductive health. She’s also an author. Her book, Undue Burden, follows the stories of patients affected by abortion bans and was published earlier this year. I started by asking her about the responses to this platform that she’s covered in her reporting from pro and anti-abortion rights advocates. 


Shefali Luthra: So what I heard was a lot of fascination about how tricky this particular language is. And there’s a couple of elements that I want to flag. The highlighting of late term abortion, a term that has no medical meaning. And what’s interesting is we have seen, even over the past couple of years, an effort by abortion opponents to shift what they mean when they use that phrasing. They used to say abortions after 20 weeks, then they started saying abortions after 15. Sometimes they say abortions after 12. And so when they say we want to ban late term abortions or we oppose them, what that means is really it’s in the eye of the beholder in some ways, and it can be very slippery in terms of what they want to restrict. But what I really want to flag is something else that the platform talks about, which is the 14th amendment to the Constitution. And they highlight this amendment, the Equal Protection Amendment. And they say that they recognize that it protects the right to life, liberty and due process, and that states can cite the 14th amendment in banning abortion. And this is a real telegraph to abortion opponents, because they view the interpretation of the 14th Amendment as banning abortion as key to their efforts for a national abortion ban. They take that legal argument and they say it’s not only state based, it’s national, and it could be used to eventually ban abortion nationwide. It could be used to ban something like IVF nationwide because of the implications around this theory called fetal personhood. And so I heard a surprising amount of enthusiasm from some abortion opponents who pointed to this 14th amendment phrasing and said, this is the most important thing. And legal scholar after legal scholar said the same thing. You can’t ignore the presence of the 14th amendment and what Republicans are saying, it really underscores their effort to sound like they are moderating on this issue, while still giving something very important and meaningful to their anti-abortion base. 


Juanita Tolliver So why do you think Mike Pence called this a profound disappointment? Why do you think Senator Mike Lee said he was surprised that abortion ban wasn’t explicitly listed there? Because it’s everything that they stand for. Why do you think they had that reaction? Did they not understand the larger frame around the 14th amendment? 


Shefali Luthra: It’s a good question. And to be clear, it is different to not have an explicit abortion ban mentioned in here. Right. Because historically, that is what the GOP platform has called for. A ban on abortion. They usually talk about a 20 week ban on abortion, but that is something that I mean, you can look at Mike Pence and his debates in the Once Upon a Time Republican primary. Even he wouldn’t really be happy with that because they don’t view that as a victory. Most abortions happen before 20 weeks, and so there is some surprise in some corners of the anti-abortion movement that this isn’t part of the platform anymore, but it doesn’t distract from what the ultimate goal is. And I think that’s really important for us to not lose sight of. 


Juanita Tolliver So what does this specific framing, then, around abortion tell us about how much Republicans fear abortion as an electoral issue ahead of November?  


Shefali Luthra: You’re exactly hitting it. And this is something that former President Trump has indicated he is really concerned about. He blames Republicans underperformance in the 2022 elections to abortion specifically. And he should, because voters do not approve of the GOP message on abortion. They don’t support the overturning of Roe v Wade. They don’t want abortion banned. And they largely don’t trust Republicans on this issue. So it’s become a real albatross for them. What he’s looking for is a way to talk about this issue in a way that does not lose them their base, but that also does not mean they lose elections. And that’s pretty hard because you can’t do both unless you are being a little bit confusing, being a bit misleading, or saying different things at the same time. 


Juanita Tolliver There’s this tension internally in the GOP over the platform. It’s very Trumpified. But as we just discussed, former Vice President Mike Pence and other anti-abortion Republicans came out against it. So how will we see this tension play out next week at the Republican National Convention, when they will vote on this platform? 


Shefali Luthra: There absolutely will be tension at the convention next week. We have seen some abortion opponents talk about trying to put out some kind of minority report that would include a national ban, that would also include the 14th amendment. It’s not clear that that would gain much traction, necessarily because of the control that Trump has over the party, and because he does have a couple of really influential major anti-abortion groups on board, they are satisfied with what they have gotten for now, because they do see it as a foothold. So while these battles will continue to play out, in some ways they a distraction from the actual point, which is that this party still does have a lot of people staffing it at very high levels and advising its presumptive nominee who oppose abortion and would use the levers of the federal government to restrict access. 


Juanita Tolliver One way that we’ve seen those levers being outlined for potential use is through project 2025, a plan put together by Republicans, many of whom were from Donald Trump’s former administration, who are now associated with the Heritage Foundation. But can you tell us a little bit about project 2025 and how it differs from, or is very similar to the platform that the GOP released this week? 


Shefali Luthra: Project 2025, I do think is really important to talk about because it’s in some ways more explicit while also more limited, and that’s because it is focused on what the administration can do, what you can do with executive power. And so the parts that I think are really important are looking at the Department of Justice, looking at the Food and Drug Administration. Areas where the president’s appointees have real influence. And the authors of this, you know, policy wishlist, they have talked about using the DOJ to prosecute organizations that mail medication abortion. They’ve talked about resuscitating the Comstock Act, an 1800s anti obscenity law that gained some prominence and some attention during a recent Supreme Court case in which the proponents of this law argue that it should be used to ban the mailing of abortion. It was never repealed, and it has language that could be interpreted as banning the mailing of Mifepristone and Misoprostol, the most common way to terminate a pregnancy. But the law hasn’t been enforced to do this since before Roe v Wade. And so this is really a linchpin of what the anti-abortion movement is hoping to enact and enforce if they get a Republican administration. And it would have very significant consequences restricting access to a common form of abortion, not only in states where it’s banned, but across the country, potentially. 


Juanita Tolliver Even if the Republican Party votes and adopts this platform next week at the convention, will independent voters believe them? We already established voters are smart. They know who is for protecting their rights and who’s not for that. But they know Republicans want to enact abortion bans as well. So do you think voters are going to buy this? 


Shefali Luthra: I think there’s a different question to ask, which is how much will voters prioritize this issue? And we have seen more voters say abortion is their top issue now than they did before the Dobbs decision, but we don’t know if it will be enough to make this the issue that swings them from voting, say, Republican to Democrat, even if they oppose Republicans on the issue. Anyone who says they know the answer to that, they don’t know what they’re talking about, because we have not had an we haven’t had an election where you vote on a candidate about abortion as opposed to the issue itself. It’s really an open question as to how much this will ultimately matter and if it will be significant enough. 


Juanita Tolliver That was my conversation with Shefali Luthra, author and reporter for the 19th news. You can find more of her reporting linked in our show notes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That is the latest for now. We’ll get to some headlines in just a moment, but if you like our show, please make sure to subscribe and to share it with your friends. We’ll be right back after some ads. [music break]




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: World leaders gathered in Washington Tuesday for the start of the NATO summit, marking 75 years of the transatlantic alliance. President Biden delivered the opening remarks to celebrate the anniversary. In the same auditorium where the original NATO treaty was signed in 1949. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] The American people understand what would happen if there was no NATO, another war in Europe, American troops fighting and dying. Dictators spreading chaos. Economic collapse. Catastrophe. Americans, they know we’re strong with our friends. And we understand this is a sacred obligation. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I know one American who does not know all these things. 


Juanita Tolliver Ding ding ding. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And he is at the top of the ticket for the Republicans. So just keep that in mind. One of many things. The stakes for Biden and other NATO members at this year’s summit couldn’t be higher. Biden is trying to convince both his party and the alliance that he is up for another four years as president. While other world leaders grapple with the possibility that NATO critic Donald Trump could return to the White House, as well as a rise of far right parties all across Europe. During his speech, President Biden also announced the donation of more air defense systems to Ukraine. It’s part of a broader effort to further train and arm Ukrainian forces in the country’s war against Russia, though the alliance has not made any more concrete plans to move Ukraine closer to NATO membership. 


Juanita Tolliver Meanwhile, House and Senate Democrats appear to be falling in line behind Biden as the party’s presidential nominee. But multiple outlets report that deep divisions remain. Lawmakers in both chambers held separate meetings yesterday to discuss Biden’s spot at the top of the Democratic ticket. Centrist Congresswoman Mikie Sherrell of New Jersey became the seventh House Democrat to publicly call on Biden to leave the race. But no further defections came Tuesday. No senator has publicly called on Biden to drop out. California congressman and Biden campaign surrogate Ro Khanna joined Pod Save America on Monday. He did not call for Biden to exit the race, but he did criticize the president for dismissing concerns about his age and demanding unity. 


[clip of Ro Khanna] I do think it’s important to unify, but you don’t unify by suppressing conversation. You don’t unify by suppressing dissent. You unify by acknowledging people’s concerns, being vulnerable and acknowledging the truth, and then offering a way forward. 


Juanita Tolliver You can hear the full episode at or wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll also put a link to it in our show notes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: An Israeli airstrike killed more than two dozen people on Tuesday in southern Gaza. According to Palestinian medical officials, the strike hit a school turned shelter in the Khan Yunis region. Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Forces ramped up their offensive in central Gaza, pushing further into residential areas and forcing thousands to evacuate. This comes amid tense efforts to broker a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas. Negotiators made significant progress towards an agreement over the weekend, but officials for Hamas said on Monday that any escalation in violence by Israel could return the negotiations to, quote, “point zero.” And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Sunday that he would only agree to a ceasefire deal that would, quote, “allow Israel to resume fighting until all of the objectives of the war have been achieved.” Senior Israeli officials are expected to arrive in Qatar today to continue cease fire talks. 


Juanita Tolliver And turning back to a story we brought you yesterday. Nearly two million customers in and around Houston are still living without power after Hurricane Beryl made landfall along the Texas coast. Many residents have taken to social media to express their frustration with one of the main energy providers in the area, because its outage map has been out of operation since May. Okay, you had months to get this together before hurricane season. Like what is happening? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wild, wild and unacceptable. 


Juanita Tolliver Residents have now resorted to using the Whataburger app to track which areas have power based on which locations are open. Folks from storm prone areas know that this is similar to the Waffle House index, an unofficial method used by federal and state authorities to track power outages. The news spread so far on social media that Whataburger CEO commented on the matter, saying, quote, “Whataburger is that friend by your side in good times and bad.” [laugh]


Priyanka Aribindi: What? 


Juanita Tolliver “We’re glad the Whataburger app has been helpful to Houston residents to understand where power is available in the city.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: This is so insane. People can’t rely on their energy providers, so they have to turn to a burger chain to do this? This is the state of affairs that we’re living in Texas. What is going on here? 


Juanita Tolliver I feel like we can put this in the column of here’s explicitly why Texas should not have a state run electrical grid. Like–


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver Let’s put that in that column, because failure after failure. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Let Whataburger run it. I think they’d do a better job. 


Juanita Tolliver Okay. They do good burgers. Fries not you know, so so but keep the outage maps going. Thank you so much Whataburger. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, maps, burgers all around. Thank you. 


Juanita Tolliver And those are the headlines. 




Juanita Tolliver That’s all for today. If you like the show. Make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Order your next Whataburger with a side of better power company and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just DMs from exes trying to become VP’s like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver I’m Juanita Tolliver. 


[spoken together] And your platform doesn’t fool us Republicans.


Juanita Tolliver Like we literally see you like and we know your intentions. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. [?] We do not need a piece of paper, 16 for that matter, to know what you guys are about. You’ve made that very, very clear. [music break] What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison, and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.