Politics

Abortion rights front and center in the midterms after the Supreme Court decision

Abortion rights took center stage heading into the midterm elections as the conservative Supreme Court overturned Friday the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization strikes down a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and paves the way for states to ban and further restrict abortion across the country. 

Democrats are fighting to defend their majorities in the House and Senate. There are also 36 governor’s races taking place this year, and thousands of races down ballot. Party officials see the fight to protect the right to an abortion as a winning issue for candidates up and down the ballot. After the opinion leaked in May, Democrats saw its impact on grassroots support, according to an aide from the campaign arm of the party.

“Make no mistake: The Republican Party will not stop at overturning Roe. The 2022 election will now determine whether new, cruel, and punishing restrictions will be put in place on women and families,” read a joint statement from Democratic committees.  “The stakes of November’s elections could not be higher – and voters will make their voices heard by standing with Democrats up and down the ballot.”

According to the pro-abortion rights organization Guttmacher Institute, 26 states will move to further restrict abortion if the ruling is overturned. 13 states have trigger laws on the books that would ban abortion almost immediately. Lawmakers in other states have already been working to put further restrictions in place, in preparation for the decision coming down. 

CBS News polling last month, ahead of the decision, found nearly two-thirds of Americans wanted Roe v. Wade kept in place: 65% wanted abortion to be legal in their state in all or most cases even if the decision was overturned; 58% wanted Congress to pass a law keeping abortion legal. 

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the Democratic National Committee, Senatorial Campaign Committee and Congressional Campaign Committee announced the launch of a nationwide organizing campaign to elect and reelect candidates who support abortion rights. It includes a new website, volunteer hub and coordinated field campaigns. 

“This organizing campaign will give outraged voters a way to help elect the pro-choice Democrats who are the last line of defense against Republican’s plan to ban abortion nationwide,” said DCCC Executive Director Tim Persico. 

Even before the decision — Democrats started releasing ads focused on abortion rights. In May, Senator Maggie Hassan who is up for reelection in New Hampshire released an ad attacking her opponents, accusing them of supporting the criminalization of abortion. In Nevada, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who is also up for reelection, had ads up on social media accusing her opponent Adam Laxalt of supporting eliminating Nevada’s protections for legal abortion in the state.  And in the crowded Democratic primary to take on GOP Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, the only woman in the race, Sarah Godlewski, released an ad filmed outside the Supreme Court vowing to protect reproductive rights. 

On Friday after the decision came down, Democrats issued a flurry of statements and fundraising emails and texts. Several also announced plans to attend pro-abortion rights events heading into the weekend. 

“The only way forward is to expand our pro-choice majority,” tweeted Ohio Senate candidate Tim Ryan. Cheri Beasley, the Democratic Senate candidate in North Carolina and a former state Supreme Court chief justice, slammed the decision, saying it was the ” first time in our history, the Supreme Court took away an individual constitutional right.”

Earlier this year, pro-abortion rights groups Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America and EMILY’s List announced plans to spend $150 million in the midterms to help elect candidates championing reproductive rights up and down the ballot. According to a spokesperson for EMILY’s List, their polling shows voters are galvanized by the issue.

“Voters very clearly view this as a right that they should have, they believe you should have the freedom to make your own decisions and they will vote on this,” said Christina Reynolds. “They’re very firmly on our side and they blame the Republicans for these actions.”

While Democrats rally behind electing candidates who support abortion rights heading into the midterms, many Republicans have praised the Supreme Court decision. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the court corrected a “terrible legal and moral error.” 

Former Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement the decision “righted an historic wrong.” He also issued a rallying cry: “We must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land.”

With the midterms slightly more than four months away, Republicans on the ballot are navigating their own lines of attack. One that has emerged is that of late-term abortion, which was not protected by Roe v. Wade.

In a statement in response to the decision, Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker said it “sends the issue of abortion back to the states, which is where it belongs.” He also went after his opponent over late-term abortion. 

“All Democrats running in 2022 should have to answer this simple question: Should there be any legal limits on abortion?” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Chris Hartline in a statement following the decision. 

In response, Democrats have argued health care must be a decision between a woman and her doctor.

Another approach Republican candidates are taking is focused on resources for parents. Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance released a statement calling it a “great day.” He went on to claim he will fight to ensure that “every young mother has the resources they need to bring new life into the world.”

A recent review by CBS News found states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the books were ones that had the least resources for women to have and raise children.

Aaron Navarro contributed reporting.

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