Democrats and abortion rights groups are seizing on the anti-abortion record of new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and appear ready to use it as a cudgel against the GOP conference ahead of the 2024 elections.
Throughout the day Wednesday, as Republicans coalesced around Johnson, Democrats were quick to point out what they called extreme comments and positions on abortion from the new Speaker.
“Mike Johnson, probably more so than almost any other member of the House Republican conference, wants to criminalize abortion care and impose a nationwide ban,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday during an event hosted by the Center for American Progress.
When Rep. Michael Lawler (R-N.Y.), one of the most vulnerable House Republicans, voted for Johnson, a Democrat in the chamber yelled “bye-bye!”
Democrats across the country are embracing a fight over abortion and are hoping to ride to victory with a sharp rise in voters who want to protect abortion access in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
Prior to being elected to Congress, Johnson was an attorney and spokesman for the powerhouse conservative legal group Alliance Defense Fund, known today as Alliance Defending Freedom.
The group has helped draft and defend states’ anti-abortion laws, including in Mississippi in the case that led the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Johnson earned an “A+” rating from the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, and has co-sponsored and advocated for legislation including the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children From Late-Term Abortions Act, and the Heartbeat Protection Act of 2021.
“With an extreme record that includes supporting a complete nationwide abortion ban, Mike Johnson may hold the title of Speaker, but he does not speak for us or for the American people’s pro-choice majority,” House Pro-Choice Caucus Co-Chairs Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
In a string of posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, House Democrats attacked Johnson for his anti-abortion views. In one clip shared by the House Judiciary Committee minority, Johnson seemingly claims that abortion bans would produce more “able-bodied” workers to help shore up the economy and make Social Security and Medicare more stable.
“Roe v. Wade gave constitutional cover to the elective killing of unborn children in America,” Johnson said. “We’re all struggling here to cover the bases of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and all the rest. If we had all those able-bodied workers in the economy, we wouldn’t be going upside down and toppling over like this,” he added.
President Biden’s reelection campaign also highlighted Johnson’s abortion record, drawing a contrast with the White House’s public support for abortion protections and issuing a warning for swing-district Republicans.
“Now, Donald Trump has his loyal foot soldier to ban abortion nationwide, lead efforts to deny free and fair election results, gut Social Security and Medicare, and advance the extreme MAGA agenda at the expense of middle-class families,” Ammar Moussa, spokesperson for Biden-Harris 2024 said in a statement.
“And so to every MAGA Republican who supported this choice: We’ll see you in November.”