Abortion could be a defining issue in the 2014 midterm elections as the parties try to use it to motivate voters to get to the polls.
According to The New York Times, Republicans in a number of states are planning state ballot initiatives
that would put new limits on abortion, a move which they believe could drive core supporters to vote in an off-year election traditionally characterized by low voter turnout.
Democrats, meanwhile, are hoping to paint the GOP's anti-abortion position as anti-women, a strategy that proved successful in last year's governor's race in Virginia. The party is also banking on the support of a strong percentage of female voters, which President Barack Obama enjoyed in both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
"Republicans have turned the floor of the House into the battle ground for their relentless war on women's healthcare and freedoms," Steven Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Times.
"Every time they launch another extreme attack against women's rights, they lose more ground with women voters," he said.
In anticipation of the Democratic strategy, Republicans in some states, such as Oregon, are framing the abortion issue in an economic context by arguing that taxpayer money should not be used to subsidize abortion coverage, as is the case under the new federal healthcare law.
That approach would also enable the GOP to tie the issue to the increasingly unpopular healthcare law, while potentially motivating libertarians to join their effort, according to the Times.
The issue of women's healthcare is already becoming the focus of debate in some of the key congressional races which could be pivotal to each party's chances of controlling the House and the Senate.
In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, whose seat is vulnerable, plans to use the issue to attack Republicans for passing new restrictions on abortion at the state level.
In Colorado, Sen. Mark Udall has already said he is concerned that anger over Obamacare could hurt his chances, and social conservatives in the state are hoping to drive up their support on the back of a constitutional amendment they placed on the ballot that would give legal protections for fetuses.
"For a lot of members politically it ties into the issue they want to be talking about this election, which is Obamacare," Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs for the March of Life, told the Times.
Republicans are nonetheless aware that there are pitfalls to focusing on the divisive abortion issue and plan to tread carefully.
"It's a matter of tone as well as substance," Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition told the Times.
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