Assuming the Supreme Court issues a sweeping opinion overruling Roe, how will this affect the upcoming midterm elections? This question is being widely examined, e.g., here, here, here. My take is that the key issue is whether the personal stories of women (and teenagers) affected by abortion restrictions get told.
First, a brief review of public opinion:
Most Americans do not want to see Roe overruled. The split is about 60/30. People also believe that the decision to terminate a pregnancy should be left to a woman and her doctor (75%), rather than regulated by law (20%). On the other hand, Americans are evenly split on whether they consider themselves to be “pro-life” or “pro-choice”, and support for abortion drops from 60% in the first trimester to 28% in the second trimester to 13% in the final trimester. Support for abortion rights is strongest – 75% to 80% – in cases of rape, incest, serious fetal defect, and threat to the mother’s health.
What lessons should we take from this?
The fact that most Americans do not want to see Roe overruled is probably not enough to give the Democrats a significant boost at the polls. However, there is little doubt that some Republican legislatures will push restrictions that go far beyond the bounds of both basic human decency and public opinion.
What remains to be seen is whether the stories of the girls and women affected are told. If Republicans force girls raped by their step-fathers to carry their pregnancies to term, if women die or suffer because they cannot get treatment for ectopic pregnancies and other life-threatening conditions, if women are prosecuted for miscarriages or forced to give birth to unviable fetuses, then the backlash could be strong. Attempts to prosecute doctors and midwives, to limit the right to travel, or to impose liability on people who try to help desperate women or teenagers access care could also backfire.
The future of abortion rights and possibly the 2022 election will depend on whether journalists and advocates can make the inhumanity of draconian abortion restrictions visible to voters, on a human level.