Democrats hope Roe v. Wade ruling is game-changer for suburban women
Democrats see the potential to bring suburban women into their corner for the midterm elections after the Supreme Court ruled last week to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The high court’s decision was met with an onslaught of rage and backlash from women since it was released on Friday, prompting many to consider how to plan for best-case-scenario political outcomes from a worst-case-scenario law reversal.
Women who reside in American suburbs have been among the most closely watched demographics on both sides of the aisle since the 2016 election, moving away from the Republican Party during the height of Trumpism but inching back in some areas as voters become fatigued and disillusioned by the Biden era.
Ahead of November, liberals’ new hope is that the coveted bloc could flip to blue with the right actions and messaging. The highly personal nature of the Roe ruling, they say, could be a turning point in the otherwise dismal political climate for the party in power.
“We don’t like extremism,” said Katie Paris, an organizer who founded Red Wine & Blue, a group working to mobilize suburban women in battleground states like Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina. “We’re seeing it in deeply personal, local ways. And it’s been unnerving.”
Pro-abortion rights Republicans are, for now, withholding judgment about how things may play out. They say suburban women care deeply about abortion, but they also care about prices at the pump and on the shelf just as much. And those critical of President Biden believe he’s already squandered earlier opportunities to make things better, hampering his ability to gain voters’ trust.
Will the court’s decision be enough to turn things around? That’s anyone’s guess, some say.
“My worry is that you get a lot of the old hands of the Democratic Party thinking that they’ll do a little bit and their people will show up,” said Rina Shah, a Republican strategist who opposes the Supreme Court ruling and former President Trump’s vision for the GOP.
“They don’t understand there’s a lot out there that’s deeply resentful of where this administration is going,” she said.
Democrats up for reelection see things differently. Those running in swing states maintain that it’s essential to talk about abortion and rising prices in tandem, contending the party must do more to maintain its narrow edge in Washington. They say they are determined to do both.
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), who is facing what’s likely to be a competitive reelection bid in New Hampshire, has put an emphasis on both issues while on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail, seeking to set an example of what Democrats say must be carried out in contentious contests.
“It’s really important that elected members of Congress and senators are focused on enshrining Roe v. Wade into law but also lowering costs for families,” Hassan told reporters on Monday.
The issue has also played out in House districts as swingy as parts of the Granite State, including in Virginia. On Monday, Axios surfaced audio that showed the Republican nominee in the 7th Congressional District, Yesli Vega, appearing to downplay the possibility of becoming pregnant as a result of rape.
The district’s incumbent Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) quickly went on the offensive.
“My opponent’s views are devoid of truth, shamefully disrespectful towards victims of rape, and clearly indicate that she is not qualified to be making serious policy decisions on behalf of our fellow Virginians,” Spanberger said in a statement. “I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure a woman’s right to choose and the fundamental right to privacy.”
Spanberger’s views echo sentiments at the national level, with opinion polling showing that the public is on Democrats’ side. A new post-Roe-reversal survey conducted by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist found that 56 percent oppose the move, which threw five decades of law out the window. In that poll, a majority of independents, arguably the country’s most coveted electorate, disagree with the decision.
Strategists, too, see the ruling as one of their best chances at gaining momentum for the fall, with some saying that Democrats should explicitly highlight just how far and widely the decision impacts people of all backgrounds — not just women.
“This is not just a sad woman looking at the rain through a window,” said Jessica Floyd, the president of American Bridge, a Democratic political action committee. “These are mothers; they have kids already. These are boyfriends and husbands who risk getting punished themselves if they help their wives and girlfriends get health care. It’s doctors.”
“This isn’t hypothetical, this is real,” Floyd said. “And we should be telling those real stories.”
The other story that Democrats are up against, however, is one of an administration in turmoil, one that’s spiraling downward in many voters’ eyes.
Biden, whose approval ratings have sunk to the 30s, has struggled to devise a plan to lift struggling people out from a mountain of problems. From economic crises like high gas prices to humanitarian suffering in the form of mass shootings, the White House has continued to search for a way to reach voters, seemingly to no avail.
Some constituencies are indeed already making their attitudes known. More than 1 million voters in 43 states have newly registered as Republicans in the past year, according to an analysis of voter registration data from The Associated Press. While Republicans don’t control the executive or legislative branches of government, the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling was evidence that conservative justices currently have disproportionate sway over ideals that Democrats believe to be sacred to their party.
“Extremism is becoming a very visceral motivator for suburban women,” Paris said.
Paris’s Red Wine & Blue says it’s seen a heightened level of engagement on social media since Friday. Women were taking to its popular Facebook group, which hosts thousands of members, to share personal accounts of their abortions, sometimes for the first time, she said.
Organizers are also optimistic that the personal nature of the issue will encourage more people to vote on Election Day who otherwise might not have. According to a survey taken by PerryUndem, a nonpartisan research and analytics firm, more than a third of voters polled expressed more interest in casting their ballots in the midterms as a result of the decision.
“We’ve seen the issue of abortion care mobilize women from all geographic regions and walks of life,” Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood and a staunch pro-abortion rights advocate, told The Hill on Tuesday. “But particularly in 2018 and 2020, suburban women proved to be a decisive voting bloc and a major reason why Democrats won the presidency as well as majorities in the House and Senate.”
“Women in every corner of this country are outraged by the illegitimate Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade,” she said.
Democrats had months to prepare for the anticipated ruling. The actual decision was closely in line with a draft that was obtained by Politico in May, giving lawmakers and strategists time to formulate early plans. Several told The Hill at the time that they saw a galvanizing aspect after the early draft surfaced.
Now, some Democrats say the shock of the final outcome — one that many voters didn’t expect to actually happen — can be an even more powerful motivator than when the hypothetical opinion was originally leaked.
“This has certainly reengaged people,” Floyd said. “They were exhausted after the chaos of the Trump years, and now they have a real need to be reengaged.”