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The voters did not forget the Dobbs decision

Protestors react in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for the court to overturn Roe v. Wade later this year, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden
Protestors react in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on May 3, 2022, after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for the court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court made one of the most consequential decisions in its history. By overturning Roe v. Wade, the highest court in our land not only threw out nearly 50 years of its own precedent, but it also—for the first time—took away a constitutional right from the American people. The now-infamous Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision stripped away the right of millions to access abortion care. It also ignited an immediate firestorm across the nation.

But four months stood between that decision and the 2022 midterm election. As the initial protests petered out, as our minds wandered and our news feeds shifted, a question loomed large in the media: when election season came, would America forget about Dobbs?

Those who believed Americans’ outrage over the decision would be just another fleeting moment in a drawn-out election cycle did not understand the magnitude of what was taking place. Almost overnight, abortion became a central issue on voters’ minds. The fury over Dobbs drove pro-choice voters to the polls in massive numbers in August, in November, and again in December to defeat any further efforts to limit Americans’ access to reproductive care.

In the months after Dobbs, the number of women registering to vote rose by unprecedented levels in multiple states, including Kansas and Pennsylvania. Women who remember life before Roe refused to go back. Women who have never lived in a world without Roe refused to accept they would no longer have the rights their mothers and grandmothers had fought for and enjoyed. 

Then in August, Kansas voters decisively rejected an anti-choice constitutional amendment and protected abortion rights statewide. Then in November and December, high turnout—especially among women, young voters and voters of color—led to resounding victories for pro-choice, Democratic candidates across the country and overwhelming defeats of ballot measures seeking to further limit abortion access. Exit polls confirmed abortion was far from a dirty word or a political liability: it was the single most important issue driving the votes of women voters and young voters. It was among the top issues for Black, Latino, and all nonwhite voters, voters who altogether favored Democrats by decisive margins in key races in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, and others. This influx of voters determined to protect women’s access to abortion care helped stave off what was projected to be a massive “red wave” of Republican victories. Instead of the 60-seat majority many believed Republicans would hold in the House this year, the margin of seats held between the two parties is now just seven. 

The message being sent by our constituents is clear: they trust people, not politicians, to make their own decisions about their health and lives—including about abortion. Where abortion is on the ballot, it wins out across the nation. Americans vote for reproductive freedom. And they will not allow extremist politicians to strip away their rights without a fight. 

America did not forget about Dobbs. And neither can we. The question now is how or even if lawmakers will heed their constituents’ call to protect their reproductive rights.

What we have seen so far is House Republicans not only moving forward with their extreme anti-choice agenda, but doing so at a rapid pace. We are less than four weeks into the Republican House majority, and they have already signaled their intention to fast-track legislation that threatens criminal prosecution for health care workers who provide abortion services and passed a resolution that weaponizes horrific acts of political violence to advance their extreme agenda — and this is likely only the beginning.

For the next two years, House Republicans will likely block any attempt to advance legislation needed to protect access to reproductive care. They will refuse to take up critical bills, such as the Women’s Health Protection Act, the EACH Act, and the Right to Contraception Act. They will instead direct House committees to launch bogus investigations and pass shameful legislation—such as a nationwide abortion ban—bills with no chance of passing in a Democratic-controlled Senate or ever being signed into law with President Biden in the White House.

And when they make these extreme, unpopular moves, we will be there. 

As leaders of the Pro-choice Caucus, with our pro-choice colleagues, we will not let a single bill or a single vote go unnoticed. 

We will shine a light on every effort they make to further limit abortion care in this country. We will highlight their every attempt to strip away women’s right to bodily autonomy, and we will expose the shameful, dangerous impacts of the abortion bans they seek to implement throughout this Union. And we will show—over and over again—who is fighting to protect our rights and who is trying to take them away. 

Elections matter. And what this last election has shown us is that the American people are with us in this fight. The more Republicans try to subvert the will of the American people, the harder we will push back.

As we reflect on what-would-have-been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade this week, it’s important to remember that while they may have the majority,  we have the momentum. Today, we introduced the EACH Act — landmark legislation to repeal the Hyde amendment and protect access to abortion care no matter a person’s zip code or income. And we won’t stop there.

We will ride this momentum through the ups and downs of this Congress, back into the majority in 2024. And we will ride it right to the president’s desk, to codify the protections of Roe and the right to abortion into law in 2025. And we will do it because reproductive rights are human rights. Reproductive justice is racial justice, is economic justice. Reproductive freedom is religious freedom.

The voters did not forget, and they will not forget. Not last year, not this year, and not in 2024. If they did not, then we cannot and we will not forget—not for one moment.

Barbara Lee and Diana DeGette are co-chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.

Tags abortion rights Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Hyde Amendment

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