RNC releases party platform with softer abortion stance, call for voting restrictions

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A week before Republicans gather in Milwaukee to nominate Donald Trump as their presidential nominee for a third time, the party approved a new platform that solidifies the former president's takeover of the party.

The platform, released after a closed meeting of Republican National Committee party officials Monday in Milwaukee's Baird Center, promotes nationalism, is less socially conservative on the issue of abortion access, and promotes new voting restrictions at a time when the GOP is pushing a conflicting message to their party faithful.

The way the platform was crafted and approved angered some committee members focused on pursuing a more aggressive policy on abortion access, who told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel debate was discouraged more than had been the case in previous platform draftings.

"Normally, people fly in and they're working for two or three days on the platform, and it's great. This time, it was a very controlled thing. And sadly, there was no opportunity for the actual delegates to impact the platform," Kris Ullman, president of anti-abortion advocacy group Eagle Forum in Washington, D.C., said.

Ullman said "any mention of the unborn was removed from the platform."

Gayle Ruzicka, an RNC platform committee member from Utah, Tabitha Walter and Kris Ullman of the Eagle Forum said officials squashed debate on abortion. "They didn't allow any amendments. They didn't allow any discussion. They rolled us," Ruzicka said.

Gayle Ruzicka, RNC platform committee member from Utah, said officials squashed debate on the abortion item.

"They didn't allow any amendments. They didn't allow any discussion. They rolled us," Ruzicka said. "We only spent thousands of dollars to be here, and what they told us they were going to do isn't what happened. None of it happened. I've never seen this happen before. I don't understand why they did it, and I'm extremely disappointed that we do not have any pro-life language."

Ullman said she assumed campaign officials wanted to limit abortion language given the vulnerability the issue presents for Trump following the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which has been unpopular according to polling since the decision.

"I think the people in the campaign thought it's not something that we should talk about. But what we've seen over the years is that when Republicans stand up and talk about the rights of the unborn, that we actually do better than if we try to sweep it under the rug," Ullman said.

The platform committee that also includes barring cuts to Medicare and Social Security programs, cutting taxes, and drastically reducing immigration, including a goal to "carry out the largest deportation operation in American history."

The platform also seeks to build a "great iron dome missile defense shield over our entire country" to match defense operations in Israel, end automobile manufacturing regulations aimed at promoting the use of electric vehicles, underscore protections for students who wish to practice Christianity in public schools, and cut federal funding for schools that promote anti-racism in curriculum.

On the two issues Trump is criticized most heavily by Democrats, abortion and elections, the party passed language that embraces birth control and in vitro fertilization and seeks to bar late-term abortions.

Gracie Skogman, a spokeswoman for anti-abortion advocacy group Wisconsin Right to Life, said the group wants Republican officials to reaffirm a commitment to value "preborn life and the vital importance of providing compassionate care to women and their preborn children."

"Our efforts to change hearts and minds to favor life are not depended on a political party. However, we do need those in office who are willing to let children be born," Skogman said. "We call on them to reaffirm this commitment and present the American people with a contrast between pro-abortion extremism and love and support for both women and their preborn children."

Ruzicka said she didn't vote for the platform because of the absence of such language.

"I've been coming to these conventions since 1992 and this is the first time we don't have a pro-life platform. The platform simply says that we oppose late term abortion. Well, what about before that?" she said. "Never happened before, and I've never been treated so badly − to have them force this vote on us before we even had a chance to read the platform."

On voting, the committee adopted a goal of allowing voting only on Election Day and banning the use of electronic voting machines, which could violate federal rules related to voters with disabilities.

The committee wants to "secure our elections, including same day voting, voter identification, paper ballots and proof of citizenship," according to the platform.

At the same time, Wisconsin Republicans — including state party officials and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson — have pushed GOP voters to embrace in-person absentee voting, a practice known as early voting that at times requires the use of electronic voting machines.

"President Trump’s platform serves as a contract with the American voter that makes clear what we can and will deliver under a President Trump administration with the Republican Party leading the country for the next four years," a Trump campaign official said in a statement.

Trump has repeatedly promoted lies and distortions about how elections were carried out in 2020 when he lost to President Joe Biden, including in Wisconsin's presidential contest. As a result, he has pushed the baseless claim that absentee voting and the use of ballot counters or electronic voting machines lead to widespread voter fraud.

Republicans have sought to combat the rhetoric in order to restore confidence in voting among their supporters but Trump continues to promote the conflicting message. Wisconsin's Supreme Court last week reinstated the use of absentee ballot drop boxes in the state.

A spokesman for the state GOP did not immediately have a reaction to the party's preferred policy on voting.

In 2020, delegates at the Republican National Convention did not adopt a new party platform, with a Republican National Committee resolution  size and scope of the convention in the coronavirus pandemic.

The new GOP platform was drafted in private and released publicly Monday. It comes after the party broke with tradition and did not adopt a position platform four years ago.

The draft will go to convention delegates to adopt next week.

Molly Beck and Mary Spicuzza can be reached at molly.beck@jrn.com and mspicuzza@jrn.com.

Editor’s note, July 8, 2024: This article has been updated to correct the number of times Trump has secured the Republican nomination for president.