Roe v. Wade ruling injects new urgency into midterms for Democrats
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade catapulted the issue of abortion rights directly into the midterms campaign on Friday, with Democrats seeking to put the issue front and center.
Democratic candidates up and down the ballot issued their reactions in a slew of statements following the decision, while the party’s national campaign apparatus rolled out a website designed to “help voters channel anger into action and organize with local coordinated field campaigns.”
While issues like rising inflation, crime and the flow of migrants over the U.S. southern border have dominated campaign rhetoric on the GOP side, Democrats are hoping to use the high court’s decision to galvanize their own bases.
“This fall, Roe is on the ballot. The right to privacy is on the ballot,” President Biden said at a press conference following the decision’s release on Friday.
Democrats and abortion rights advocates point to what they say is conservatives’ goal to ban abortion nationwide.
“They won’t give up unless voters stop them. The stakes in November’s midterm elections are higher than ever for reproductive health and rights, including abortion,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement on Friday.
In swing states and districts across the country, Democratic candidates rolled out their own statements hitting their Republican opponents over the issue.
In Wisconsin, Senate candidate and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) called for the filibuster to be abolished so Roe could be “the law of the land.” Fellow Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Alex Lasry also called for the filibuster to be abolished, accusing Republicans of “embracing extremism.”
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Senate nominee and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) drew a clear contrast with his Republican opponent Mehmet Oz on the issue.
“I will protect abortion rights. Dr. Oz will take them away. It’s that simple,” Fetterman said.
In Texas, which has an abortion trigger law that will go into effect within the next month, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke released a video calling for voters to support his campaign amid news of the ruling.
“We have to focus on the way in which we are going to overcome this,” O’Rourke said. “The only way to do this is to win political power.”
At the House level, Democratic candidates and incumbents also issued reactions leaning into the issue.
Incumbent Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), who is facing a contentious election bid in the commonwealth’s 2nd Congressional District, condemned the decision along with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) announcement that he will seek a 15-week abortion ban following the decision.
“And there it is,” Luria tweeted. “Republicans in Virginia have a plan to remove existing protections for women to make decisions about their body.”
In Texas’s 15th Congressional District, Democratic nominee Michelle Vallejo released a statement calling for Roe v. Wade to be codified into law.
“We need representatives that will codify Roe V. Wade and advocate every single day for our right to choose,” Vallejo. “I will do everything in my power as the next congresswoman from TX15 to be a champion for Texas women and families.”
The issue is also poised to play a role in competitive state legislature races, like in Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.
“Republican majorities in these state legislatures are in for a rude awakening when they start taking away people’s rights,” said Vicky Hausman, co-founder of Forward Majority, a Democratic group that works elect Democrats to state legislatures.
“We see a great deal of outrage driven by this decision and that outrage is happening exactly where Democrats need to be winning in these key districts that present a path to a majority in state legislatures,” she continued.
Former Vice President Mike Pence seemed to confirm those concerns when he called for a nationwide abortion ban on Friday.
“Having been given this second chance for Life, 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,” Pence said in a tweet.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also rolled out a statement exclaiming “Life wins!”
“As this debate now returns to the states and the American people, we know there is still much work ahead. Republicans will continue to advocate for life, uphold the law, and stand against an extreme Democrat Party’s pro-abortion agenda,” McDaniel said.
However, other Republicans are signaling they intend to stay laser-focused on their messaging regarding inflation, crime and the border.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling returns the issue of abortion to the states and allows voters to decide whether they agree with Democrats’ extreme support for taxpayer-funded late term abortion,” said Samantha Bullock, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.
“This ruling does nothing to change the fact that voters’ top concerns are rising prices, soaring crime, and the disaster at the southern border,” she continued.
Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano downplayed the ruling, saying in a statement that Democrats want to use the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe to distract voters from issues that matter more to them.
“People in this area and in my part of the state across the border here are struggling to make ends meet and they don’t care about those issues over there,” Mastriano, who’s up against Democrat Josh Shapiro, said. “They want to have security. They want crime to be down. They want to be able to put food on the table and gas in their cars.”
Democrats say they are keenly aware of the role other issues, like inflation, are playing in campaign discourse, but argue that abortion access is an economic and health care issue.
“We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” said Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford (D), who also serves as co-chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association. “This is an important issue. It is not something that takes second seed to any of the other issues and nor do other issues take second seed to this.”
Anti-abortion organizations are signaling they want to play a leading role in the midterms.
On Thursday, the conservative anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America launched a $2 million digital ad buy in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin for two weeks.
“This is going to be hugely mobilizing for pro-life Americans, who have now seen the fruition of their past political engagement, especially the last 10 years when we’ve focused heavily on Senate races and the White House to give us this court,” said Mallory Carroll, vice president of communications at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
“We’re talking to pro-life Americans, who don’t always vote in non-presidential election years, and people we’ve identified as being persuadable, so the infamous women in the suburbs, Hispanic voters, Black voters [and] traditional Democratic voting groups,” she continued.
But Democrats and abortion rights groups are pouring in money as well. In April, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund announced a $16 million paid media campaign “to educate and increase urgency around the abortion access crisis facing the country.”
“This is more than a Democratic issue,” Ford said. “You have several folks who are Republicans and Independents who support a right to an abortion and who I think will be concerned about the fact that the Supreme Court has now for the first time in our country removed a constitutional right.”