WASHINGTON — With grisly claims that Democrats promote “birth day abortions” and are “the party of death,” the Republican Party and its conservative allies have aggressively reset the terms of one of the country’s most divisive and emotionally fraught debates, forcing Democrats to reassess how they should respond to attacks that portray the entire party as extremist on abortion.
The unusually forceful, carefully coordinated campaign has created challenges that Democrats did not expect as they struggle to combat misinformation and thwart further efforts to undercut access to abortion. And advocates of abortion rights fear it is succeeding in pressuring lawmakers in more conservative states to pass severe new restrictions, ]
His position was one that women’s groups have adopted for decades: That decisions about abortion are a woman’s personal choice. But that language is not useful when conservatives have made the conversation more extreme, said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster.
“The initial response from a lot of well-meaning politicians was one of two things,” Ms. Lake said. “It was the language around personal decision making and Roe v. Wade, or it was the language around late abortions. And that’s just not sufficient for addressing infanticide and abortion survival and these kinds of new frames.”
“Whoever sets the frame,” she continued, “wins the debate.”
The debate is still very much an open one. But it may come down to what Americans find more persuasive: the kind of nuanced explanation and argument abortion rights supporters are making, or a searing, one-word label like “infanticide.”
“Democratic politicians constantly misunderstand the disconnect between their position and where the American people are,” said Charmaine Yoest, a vice president at the conservative Heritage Foundation, who was formerly president of Americans United for Life.
“People want abortion restrictions,” added Ms. Yoest, who recently left a job in the Trump administration. “And the more you reveal about the other side’s extremism, the more people say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t support that.’”