Dems See Political Opportunity in a Looming Abortion Disaster
The unique circumstances of Roe v. Wade likely being scaled back would be enough of a kick to send voters to the polls, Democratic operatives believe.
Fear can be a tricky emotion to wrangle into organized action—but with reproductive rights on the line in 2022, Democrats are sure going to try.
If the Supreme Court upholds a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks next summer, as they are expected to do, the decision will not only virtually overturn Roe v. Wade but will also spark a scramble to roll back rights in other Republican-led states.
It’s an issue that even down-ticket Democratic candidates can fit into their platform. Senate candidates have the fate of future SCOTUS nominations in their hands—and the ability to codify Roe v. Wade alongside their House counterparts. State legislature candidates are at the forefront of restrictive state laws, while gubernatorial candidates hold the power of the pen on those policy decisions.
Kelly Dietrich, founder of the National Democratic Training Committee, says he’s advising Democratic candidates and organizers to motivate voters in “emotional ways,” capitalizing on the personal elements of reproductive rights.
“The reality of the situation is that the potential is now the reason. Your health-care rights are going to be taken away… You can use that fear, because it’s a real, legitimate fear. It’s a fact,” Dietrich told The Daily Beast.
Dietrich argues even candidates whose offices aren’t integral to the fight on abortion can use it as a launchpad for their broader platforms.
“If you’re running for city council, issues that people are voting on in your race may not be, paramount, the choice issue. But you can use that to motivate people about the issues in your community,” he added.
Recent data shows public opinion is in favor of preserving Roe, with a November ABC News/Washington Post poll finding that 60 percent of Americans think the law should be upheld.
American Bridge 21st Century, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and EMILY’s List are all urging Democrats to campaign outright on abortion in 2022. Jenny Lawson, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s vice president of organizing and engagement campaigns, told The Daily Beast she’s encouraging candidates to “embrace” abortion access as a tenet of their midterm platforms.
“Elected officials should be unapologetic about championing and protecting abortion access... There’s really nothing to spin. The threat is real,” she said.
Lawson says Planned Parenthood Votes, the organization’s super PAC, will also contribute millions in midterm spending toward pro-abortion-access candidates, including in battleground states.
Recent polling by Hart Research and ALG Research, commissioned by Planned Parenthood Action Fund and other groups, found that “an attack against Republicans for rolling back abortion rights is equally effective as a tax fairness message framing Republicans as supporting tax policies that protect the rich and hurt working families,” with the Democratic advantage going from a +40 to +52 following abortion-focused messaging.
That research also encourages candidates to educate voters about the Supreme Court’s case on the Mississippi abortion law—and Texas’ controversial six-week abortion ban—with data suggesting that many Americans still don’t believe there’s an imminent threat to Roe.
“Even after hearing that the Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to take effect and has agreed to hear the Mississippi case and being told that six of the nine justices are conservatives who were appointed by Republican presidents, only one in three (33%) of these voters think SCOTUS is likely to overturn Roe,” the overview reads, which surveyed Democrats and other voters who are “ambivalent” on abortion issues.
In Texas, U.S. House candidate Jessica Cisneros (D) says that in her heavily religious and Latino district abortion historically has been a taboo topic. But she’s hoping that beginning a dialogue on the issue and those threats to access will bring folks into her corner.
“For so long, especially here in Texas, especially in south Texas, we've allowed these right-wing talking points to pervade, you know, the entire conversation. So, yes, like a lot of the work is just, you know, having this conversation and coming at it from a pro-choice perspective and doing a lot of education of what it means to be pro-choice,” Cisneros said.
“And especially right now what it means to be pro-choice in the face of, you know, possibly having this right taken away,” Cisneros added. She also noted to The Daily Beast that her campaign is ensuring those conversations can be had in Spanish, too, in order to not isolate non-native English speakers from the issue.
Cisneros is running against incumbent Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), the only House Democrat to vote against the Women’s Health Protection Act in September, which would codify Roe v. Wade into law.
But as much as Democrats are hoping abortion can be a call to action in 2022, it’s an electoral motivator for conservatives and evangelical voters as well. And Republicans turn out more consistently than Democrats in midterm elections, especially when a Democrat is in the White House.
A December POLITICO/Morning Consult poll of 2,000 voters saw 42 percent of respondents said they would vote for a candidate who does not share their views on abortion, compared to 32 percent who said a candidate’s position on reproductive rights would dictate their vote. A November Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 American citizens saw abortion fall in the middle echelon of issue importance, with jobs and the economy coming in at the top of the list.
Moreover, the timing of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Mississippi state could come as late as June 2022. That’s dead-zone timing during an election year, with months to go until voters head to the polls.
Nonetheless, Democratic operatives believe the unique circumstances of Roe likely being scaled back are enough of a kick to send voters to the polls.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s chairman, Sean Patrick Maloney, said in a statement, “The Supreme Court has made it clear that Roe v. Wade is in danger and safe, legal abortion hangs in the balance.”
“A woman’s very right to her own body, her own life, and her own future is at the ballot box in 2022, and House Democrats will be sounding that alarm from now until November,” he added.