Congressional Republicans have long threatened to ban abortion, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) even introduced a horrific 15-week ban—but their threats will largely remain threats unless Trump returns to the White House and Republicans pick up more seats. So Biden has some choices to make about how he’ll move forward on an issue that’s likely make-or-break for his political future and, more importantly, our bodily autonomy. Whatever happens in November is very much on him!
Hmm, Most Voters Don’t Blame Trump for Abortion Bans
Even as Trump continues to boast about being the one to overturn Roe, few voters link him with the current chaotic state of reproductive rights.AbortionPolitics
The complex psychology of the American electorate never ceases to astound me: According to a new poll this week from Data for Progress (which Mother Jones wrote about on Thursday), fewer than a quarter of all voters regard Trump as responsible for the post-Roe v. Wade abortion bans. The breakdown is even more curious: Even as Biden has tripled down on the message that Trump is the source of today’s abortion chaos, and even as Trump has boasted about being the one to overturn Roe, just 36% of Democrats and 11% of Republicans link the state of reproductive rights with Trump. Instead, 33% of voters blame state-level Republican officials, 34% blame Republicans in Congress, and 50% blame the Supreme Court.
Understandable, seeing as the Supreme Court reversed Roe and state legislators are the ones who wrote and passed these bans. Still, none of the abortion bans in place are possible without Trump appointing three staunch anti-abortion extremists to the Supreme Court during his presidency. And anti-abortion strategists across the country are determined to accomplish even more with a second Trump term, namely wielding the 19th-century Comstock Act to all but eliminate abortion access.
The very threat of a second Trump term and what that would mean for abortion rights is essentially the only force energizing Biden’s otherwise lethargic campaign, as his polls continue to drop and his administration ignores the decisive majority of voters demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. According to the same Data for Progress poll, 52% of all voters and 67% of Democrats understand that the outcome of this year’s election will be highly impactful for reproductive rights. That should bode well for Biden, given the tremendous popularity of abortion rights: A majority of voters opposed the overturning of Roe, many have ranked abortion as a mobilizing issue, and even in ostensibly red states, abortion rights have won every ballot measure since Roe fell.
Throughout his presidency, Biden has protected and expanded access to medication abortion during the pandemic; proposed new rules to protect pregnant patients’ privacy amid the growing threat of pregnancy-related criminalization; protected some abortion access for service members and veterans; and tried to remind hospitals of their duties to provide emergency, stabilizing abortion care under federal law. But the bleak reality is that too many people in states that have banned abortion remain left behind, unable to feel the impacts of these policies.
So, much of 2024 might just come down to whether Biden can actually convince voters he’ll do more to guarantee and expand abortion access. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help that, at a fundraiser this week, he said, “I’m a practicing Catholic. I don’t want abortion on demand, but I thought Roe v. Wade was right.” It also doesn’t seem especially helpful that the most he’s really promising is the restoration of Roe—a precedent under which many still struggled to access abortion—and only if we can also deliver a Democratic Congress. It’s also hard to grasp how Biden will really run on abortion when he avoids saying the word and, by his own admission, doesn’t like it.
Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill-Johnson told Vox this week that voters this election cycle have “a very clear choice between holding the line or descending further into what will be irreparable chaos and confusion”—but added, “You can be certain that we are fighting for more than Roe v. Wade.” It would probably go a long way if Biden could actually articulate what, beyond Roe, he’s fighting for. And it would probably help even more if he could meaningfully address protesters who confront him about the horrific reproductive health crises he’s contributing to in Gaza.