In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a growing percentage of Americans, particularly Democrats and those who support abortion access, are calling for the government to prioritize abortion or women’s rights.
With the midterm elections just around the corner, President Joe Biden and Democrats will look to capitalize on that shift.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated immediately following the decision that “reproductive freedom will be on the ballot in November.” But, with widespread pessimism and a slew of crises confronting the country, it’s unclear whether the ruling will inspire or disappoint voters.
“It does feel like a major setback,” said Lauren Nelson, 26, of San Diego, who is concerned about the environment in which her young niece will grow up. She does not believe the midterm elections will change the course of states. “You can’t help but feel helpless, as if there isn’t much that can be done.”
According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, 22% of U.S. adults name abortion or women’s rights as one of up to five problems they want the government to work on in an open-ended question. This has more than doubled since December, when an AP-NORC poll found a significant increase in abortion mentions from previous years, most likely in anticipation of the Dobbs ruling on abortion.
According to the new poll, which included interviews conducted before and after the Supreme Court’s decision, prioritization of the issues increased dramatically after the decision.
The Dobbs decision returns abortion decision-making to the states, and in the last week, Republican governors and legislatures have moved to introduce or advance legislation that bans or restricts abortions.
Polling conducted before the decision revealed that it was unpopular with the majority of Americans who wanted the court to leave Roe alone. The majority of Americans support abortion access in general, though many believe it should be limited.
Mentions of abortion are not limited to Americans who support abortion rights; rather, the poll shows that abortion is named as a priority roughly equally by adults with hardline views on both sides of the issue – the third who believe abortion should be legal in all cases and the one in ten who believe abortion should be illegal in all cases.
Earnestine Smith, 68, of Waukegan, Illinois, believes the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe represents progress. This is one of her top priorities right now.
“We want abortion abolished and eliminated,” she stated. “We have to take a stand and say no.”
Nonetheless, it is significant that those with the most liberal views on abortion and those with the most conservative views are roughly equally likely to prioritize the issue; historically, research has shown that opponents of abortion are more likely to consider the issue important to them than those who support abortion access.
In addition, the new poll finds that mentions of women’s rights are almost entirely made by those who believe abortion should be legal.
According to the poll, the percentage of women who prioritize abortion or women’s rights was already higher in interviews conducted before the ruling than six months ago, 21 percent vs. 9 percent in December; it grew to 37 percent in the days following. Mentions increased sharply as well, but the increase was concentrated in the aftermath of the ruling, rising from 6% in pre-ruling interviews to 21% after.
Lyle Gist stated that he would not have considered abortion a top priority a few years ago. The court’s decision to overturn Roe, while unsurprising, raises the stakes.
“I believe the ramifications of this are significant,” said Gist, 36, of Los Angeles. Gist believes there will be repercussions, including a “mass exodus” of people fleeing abortion-ban states.
Anne Jones carried a pregnancy to term and gave her daughter up for adoption in a small town in Louisiana in 1968 when abortion was illegal. Jones, 74, of Plano, Texas, is concerned about what the Republican Party will go after next, such as birth control, and believes it is hypocritical that lawmakers such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott want to “hold the woman accountable for the child that she may not be able to afford to keep” while limiting health and social services for women and children.
“Texas politics has taken a wrong turn,” she said. She wants abortion access to be made a national law, but she is skeptical that Biden and Democrats will be able to do so.
According to the poll, these issues have grown in importance for Democrats, rising from 3% in 2020 to 13% in 2021 and now 33%. Before the ruling, only 18% of Democrats mentioned abortion or women’s rights in interviews; 42 percent did after.
In the new poll, 11 percent of Republicans say abortion or women’s rights are a priority, a slight increase from 5 percent in December.
Protester Steven Lefemine outside Planned Parenthood in Columbia, South Carolina, called Roe’s decision a “major benchmark,” but said lawmakers needed to do much more, including pursuing a constitutional amendment to protect unborn children.
“I’d like to see legislation that honors God’s word,” he stated.
Biden and Democrats have vowed to fight for abortion rights, but they’ve been unsure how to proceed in the face of Republican opposition in a deeply divided Senate. On Thursday, Biden told reporters that he would support an exception to the filibuster rule to make Roe v. Wade law.
Roderick Hinton, a Biden supporter, wants the president to take action on court reform because the court’s decisions “do not match today’s time.” He was enraged after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, believing that the older generation was “putting the screws” on younger Americans, including his two daughters.
After promising to do so on the campaign trail, Biden commissioned a review of the Supreme Court in response to Democratic Party rhetoric about expanding the court following former President Donald Trump’s three conservative appointments. Last year’s report was cautious about proposals to expand the court or set term limits.
“Their lifetime position is insane,” Hinton says. “As impartial as the courts used to be, it’s now becoming political.” Their personal beliefs are being implemented.”