When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., claimed in the spring that the Biden administration’s “incompetence” would mean Democrats were “headed toward a pretty good beating,” he may not have envisioned just how unpopular the Republican promise to end abortion would be with the American public.
Voters in the midterms don’t just want to keep abortion legal; preserving abortion rights is a unique motivator getting people to vote, some for the very first time.
According to a new poll from The Wall Street Journal, abortion is the single most important issue driving voters in November, outpacing inflation, which is at a 40-year high. The poll also revealed a swift swing by women, notably independent and Hispanic female voters, to the Democrats.
The majority of people voting this fall believe abortion should be legal and say Roe’s being overturned by the Supreme Court has further motivated them to get to the ballot box this November, according to the poll.
For decades, progressive leaders have often downplayed or ignored the abortion issue altogether, fearing it will divide voters. But in 2022, we’re seeing the opposite: Voters in the midterms don’t just want to keep abortion legal; preserving abortion rights is a unique motivator getting people to vote, some for the very first time.
In the swing state of Pennsylvania, female voters have outpaced men in registering to vote by 12 percentage points. The gender gap between male and female registration is three times higher than it was before Roe was overturned. And among the women registering to vote in the state, Democrats are much more likely to register (60%) compared to Republicans (15%). Further, the highest proportions of women registering to vote are concentrated in the states where abortion is most at risk. Women are preparing for a battle, and based on their numbers, they’re in it to win it.
One popular narrative has been that the right is more passionate about ending abortion than the left is about preserving it. While the last few months have reversed that myth, the arguments progressives are deploying to protect abortion rights aren’t your typical Democratic talking points; they're conservative ones. In Kansas, the bulk of the pro-reproductive-rights messaging centered on abortion rights’ being tied to personal freedom and independence from governmental interference — values that Republican candidates, and chiefly Donald Trump, typically have relied on to win elections.
Progressives are thus coalescing and crafting a new coalition of voters who see women’s bodily autonomy as a fixture of American freedom and who view abortion as a necessary right to guarantee it. And by progressing beyond simply the “woman’s right to choose” slogan, the pro-abortion-rights movement is helping more Americans see the inextricable link between abortion rights and individual liberty. This means voters who may not have been enthusiastic about abortion rights are now taking a different position, evidenced by the indisputable bump in support for abortion rights both at the state and the federal levels.
For years, the driving force for Republicans has been a vague, histrionic and mystical promise to end abortion.
For years, the driving force for Republicans has been a vague, histrionic and mystical promise to end abortion. Presidential candidates competing for claps and votes have called it “evil” and compared it to “murder,” without reflecting on the consequences of the language they selected.
More than a dozen conservative counties that have historically leaned Republican have voted in favor of abortion rights, showing that even among the Republican base, the support for anti-abortion-rights policies isn’t as popular as conservatives might have assumed.
We saw pro-abortion-rights voters in Kansas show up in droves to stop a state constitutional ban on abortion this summer, winning by 20 points. Almost twice the number of voters showed up for this ballot initiative as turned out in the gubernatorial primaries in 2018.
As it turns out, putting the most basic human right into the hands of the state isn’t a popular policy. Republican lawmakers got what they wished for with the end of Roe, but they may regret having wished for it in the first place.