October 18, 2022
Almost four months have passed since the US Supreme Court's conservative supermajority, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, ripped away the reproductive rights of American women.
The stunning reversal of a woman's right to choose abortion, which has been the constitutional rule of law for almost 50 years, turned the authority to implement abortion laws over to individual states.
Amid a national outrage and ongoing protests across the country, at least fourteen states, emboldened by their new powers, have enacted laws banning or restricting abortion. A dozen more are battling it out in lower courts.
|A September 3-October 5, 2022 CNN/SSRS poll found that 61% of voters disapproved of the Supreme Court ruling, with 41% responding that it made them "angry", compared to 27% who felt satisfied or happy with the court's decision. (MOE: +/- 3.1%)
In the first ballot referendum on abortion rights since the High Court's decision, on August 2nd Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a state constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
The "no" vote opposing the amendment garnered an amazing 58.9% and galvanized more than 900,000 Kansans to show up at the polls, the biggest turnout for a primary election in the state’s history.
It was an astounding victory for Democrats and abortion rights advocates in one of the country's more conservative states, which Donald Trump won by 15% in 2020.
The Kansas win was a game-changer for Democrats going into the midterms as proof that the issue can motivate voters in the general election and provided hope for maintaining or restoring the right to an abortion in other red states via ballot initiatives.
As Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) said at the time, “Kansas is the earthquake that is going to rattle every assumption about what is going to happen this fall.”
Just weeks after the Kansas referendum, Democrat Pat Ryan won the August 23rd special election in New York's 19th Congressional District. The battleground seat, which slightly favored the GOP, was closely watched for its reflection of the national political climate, with Democrats turning out in disproportionately high numbers to elect Ryan, who ran on preserving abortion rights.
In the same month, Democrat Mary Peltola won the Alaska House At-Large special election, flipping the seat held for 49 years by the late Republican Congressman Don Young. In the ranked-choice vote, Peltola, who is pro-choice, defeated pro-life candidates Sarah Palin (R), who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and Nicholas Begich III (R)
Republicans, in the meantime, have tried to thread a delicate balance between their long-saught victory in reversing Roe, and the backlash to the court's decision, particularly among independents and traditional Republican women voters.
Members of their party leadership, however, are working against them. Trump, who still has a significant hold on dedicated GOP voters, fed the frenzy in the primaries by boosting pro-life ultra-right conservatives to nomination in multiple battleground states where moderate pro-choice Democrats are now favored.
On September 13th, longtime Trump ally and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a bill that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy nationwide.
"Graham just lobbed a hand grenade at GOP candidates who already had trouble evading attacks on their positions against reproductive rights." said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. "Graham put abortion back on the front burner and made it even more difficult for fellow Republicans to dodge the issue they just do not want to talk about."
|A September 9-12, 2022 Fox News national survey showed the four top issues that registered voters are "extremely" concerned about are: inflation (59% extremely concerned), the future of American democracy (50%), abortion (45%), and crime (43%). (MOE: +/- 4.0%).
President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order on July 8, doing what was within his limited powers to defend reproductive rights and protect access to safe and legal abortion.
The order expands access to medication abortion and emergency contraception, safeguards patient privacy, and protects the security of reproductive health care services providers and mobile clinics deployed to state borders to offer care for out-of-state abortions. It also bolsters legal services to protect the right to travel out of state for abortions.
Only Congress, however, can overcome the impact of the Supreme Court's decision, by passing federal legislation to codify the rights once enshrined in Roe.
In the spring, the US House passed the Women's Protection Act, which failed in the Senate without the requisite votes to overcome a filibuster.
While Democrats have control of both houses, the reality of those narrow margins has made it impossible to reverse the ills of the Dobbs decision this Congress.
The stakes could not be higher in the midterm elections -- now just three weeks away. In addition to the individual contests in the Senate and House, there are four additional initiatives addressing abortion on the ballot -- in California, Kentucky, Michigan, and Vermont.
At an event in Washington, DC today, President Biden decried the overturning of Roe v. Wade, promising that "if we maintain control of Congress, the first bill I will send to the Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade. And when Congress passes it, I will sign it in January, 50 years after Roe was first decided the law of the land."
That is if we win. This Roevember, vote.
Tomorrow: The Abortion Battlegrounds
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Sources: Washington Post, The Hill, Fox, CNN