On the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it seems the antichoice movement is focused less on extending its recent state-level gains than on denying their significance as a rollback of basic reproductive rights. Sarah Posner captured their rhetoric nicely at Religion Dispatches yesterday:

What with autopsies and rebrandings, and a new Pope decrying “obsessions,” you would think that tomorrow’s March for Life might not be such a big event. But on the anniversary this week of Roe v. Wade, the Pope is still Catholic, and the GOP is still Republican. The rebranding, if there is one, is to portray anti-abortion absolutism as mainstream, not extreme.

This effort at rhetorical but not substantive repositioning is the GOP’s big message today, notes Posner:

When the RNC convenes for its winter meeting, it will take up a proposed resolution, CNN reports, “urging GOP candidates to speak up about abortion and respond forcefully against Democratic efforts to paint them as anti-woman extremists.” The “Resolution on Republican Pro-Life Strategy” calls on the party to only support candidates “who fight back against Democratic deceptive ‘war on women’ rhetoric by pointing out the extreme positions on abortion held by Democratic opponents.”

Antichoice pols are the victims here, you see. That’s why they’ve seized on comments by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the consensus in his state supporting abortion rights as evidence they are poor pitiful refugees against intolerance (an act Charlie Pierce aptly calls “driving nails into their own palms”).

It’s all a shuck, though, as Posner concludes:

The March for Life is still a big deal. One of the nation’s two major parties supports it, and will later in the week that party will consider whether its candidates should be punished for being too weak in response to “deceptive” charges they are waging a war on women. Rebrandings, truces, lamentations about singular obsessions–none of that changes the Republican and the conservative movement commitment to making abortion illegal, and, barring that, to making it inaccessible.

The silly foot-stomping over Cuomo’s comments are from a defensive posture, but it would be a mistake to engage in much schadenfreude about the conservative position being weak. The foot-stomping is strategic: an opportunity to portray themselves as victims strengthens the resolve of their followers. (See, there is no war on women, only an elitist war on conservatives!)

Interesting, isn’t it, that from this position of feigned weakness the antichoicers are gearing up for another election cycle of bullying Republican politicians into doing their will, all in the broader cause of bullying women to give up control over their reproductive systems.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.