Abortion, Every Day (11.20.23)
Most Americans believe abortion should be legal for *any* reason
Click to skip ahead in the newsletter: In Stats & Studies, some fantastic new data on support for abortion rights. In Attacks on Democracy, the latest out of Ohio and Florida (where Republicans are trying to raise ballot measure standards again). In the States, Virginia Dems are introducing a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights without ‘viability’ language. In the Nation, Grace takes us through some key races to watch out for. In 2024, Republican donors are heading to Nikki Haley. And I highlight Republicans’ ramped up messaging about abortion going “Back to the States.”
Stats & Studies
While Republicans are putting their fingers in their ears and pretending that America isn’t overwhelmingly pro-choice, The Wall Street Journal has come out with a new poll showing record high support for abortion rights. In fact, the majority of voters, 55%, want abortion legal “for any reason.” The poll also shows that 77% of Democrats believe abortion should be legal for any reason—up from 52% in 2016—and that 53% of Independents believe the same.
But here’s the kicker: One third of Republicans believe abortion should be legal for any reason. That is a big fucking deal, and a number that the GOP should find really, really scary.
Since Roe was overturned, support for abortion rights keep going up—and I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon. In part, because of the consequences of abortion bans—which are going to continue to be depressingly on display. But there’s another reason we’re seeing increased support for abortion, even among Republicans: What Americans believe about an issue is influenced by what they think *other people* believe. Essentially, we care what our friends and neighbors think; if we get the sense that more people are pro-choice, we’re more likely to be pro-choice or are more comfortable revealing that we are.
A recent PerryUndem poll, for example, showed that before Roe was overturned, 69% of anti-choice voters thought most Americans opposed abortion. By December, only 43% thought the same. That shift is really meaningful. And every time there’s a win like the one in Ohio, more voters will understand that the country is pro-choice. That’s part of the reason Republicans have been so obsessed with using words like ‘consensus’—it’s not just to cover up the fact that they’re passing laws against voters wishes, it’s to give Republican voters the impression that they’re in the majority.
For more data on what Americans believe on abortion, here’s a compilation of polling & stats:
Attacks on Democracy
Republicans are still at it in Ohio. As I outlined in “The Week in Abortion,” the state GOP is doing everything from suggesting a 15-week ban as a ‘compromise’ to threatening the power of the judiciary—all in an effort to stop the state’s recently-passed abortion rights amendment. I don’t see this strategy going well for Republicans.
As Douglas Keith of the Brennan Center told Associated Press, “An attempt to strip the courts’ ability to interpret Issue 1 seems to me to be picking a fight with not just the courts, but with voters themselves.”
And no matter how voters feel about abortion, they don’t want politicians telling them they can’t have a say at all. Look at how angry Ohioans are at the legislators trying to stop Issue 1 from being enacted! That kind of fury, combined with growing pro-choice sentiment across the country, is going to seriously motivate voters.
Pro-choice strategists and activists in states considering ballot measures are counting on it: Kara Gross, legislative director at the ACLU of Florida, for example, told the AP, “We saw voters make that connection in Ohio between abortion and democracy in that first special election, and we have faith voters will be able to make that same connection elsewhere in 2024.”
Speaking of Florida and attacks on democracy: Republican Rep. Rick Roth introduced legislation that would raise ballot measure standards—requiring 66.67% of the vote to pass, up from 60%. (Republicans have been working on this one for a while.) From Tampa Bay Times columnist Scott Maxwell:
“When they saw that nearly 60% of voters in that very conservative state supported abortion rights, they knew they needed to change the rules in Florida so that 60% would no longer be considered a victory. If you can’t win the game on the field, move the goal posts.”
But the GOP isn’t just launching anti-abortion attacks on democracy in red states. In Michigan, for example, where voters passed an abortion rights amendment, Republicans are also trying to undo the will of the voters. I told you earlier this month about the lawsuit brought by conservative legislators and anti-abortion organizations that’s challenging the validity of the amendment. They’re asking a federal court to issue a permanent injunction of the pro-choice amendment because, they say, it creates an unconstitutional “super-right” to abortion.
Abortion, Every Day is 100% reader supported. Help the newsletter going and growing by signing up for a paid subscription:
In the States
Virginia Democrats announced their proposal for a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights today. HJ1/SJ1 would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, and notably does not have language on ‘viability’.
Abortion rights activists have been fighting amongst themselves around ‘viability’ standards (you all know where I stand), so this is a really interesting and positive development. Especially given the WSJ polling released today, and recent Gallup data showing that support for abortion throughout pregnancy has jumped nearly 10 points in the last five years.
You can read the full text of the proposed amendment here, but I’ll have more in the coming days.
Axios looks at Ohio and what happens now that abortion rights are protected in the state constitution. The short version? The state Supreme Court is considering what the amendment means for the state’s (blocked) 6-week abortion ban, Planned Parenthood is planning expansion, and Republicans keep trying to come up with ways to stop the amendment from taking effect.
A Texas Democrat has introduced legislation that would stop the travel bans being implemented in city councils across the state. State Sen. Nate Johnson says, “this is not about local governance, [but] a flagrant infringement upon the constitutional right to interstate travel.” (For my column on the travel bans, click here.)
Also in Texas, 40 businesses and business leaders in the state have filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit brought by women who were denied abortions (Zurwaski v. Texas). The brief argues that the ban is costing the state over $14 billion in revenue every year. One of the companies leading the charge is Bumble, whose CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd says, “We feel it’s our duty not just to provide our workforce with access to reproductive health care, but to speak out—and speak loudly—against the retrogression of women’s rights.”
A state Supreme Court Justice is retiring in Wyoming because of a law that requires judges over 70 years old to step down. Justice Keith Kautz’s retirement is happening in a moment when the Court is set to decide on the state’s abortion bans. (Yes, bans: One law is a broad ban, the other is a ban specifically on abortion medication—both laws are currently blocked.) Gov. Mark Gordon, who signed both of those laws, will choose who replaces Kautz.
In Michigan, a reminder that a pro-choice amendment in the state constitution is far from a cure-all. After trying to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which sought to repeal anti-abortion restrictions like the state’s 24-hour waiting period and a ban on Medicaid funding for abortions, Democrats only managed to push through a very watered down version of the legislation. Thanks to a single Democrat hold-out, the RHA repealed just some of the TRAP laws (onerous and unnecessary mandates on abortion clinics) and a requirement that people buy “rape insurance”—a separate insurance rider to pay for abortion care.
Bleeding Heartland has more on the truly horrific guidelines being considered for Iowa doctors if they need to adhere to a 6-week ban;
And University of Vermont professor Felicia Kornbluh writes that we need a national solution for abortion rights because state-by-state ballot initiatives are “wearying, expensive, and perhaps unsustainable.”
In the Nation
Senate and House elections have been heating up, and three races stand out as upcoming bellwethers on abortion rights: red-state vulnerable Senate incumbent races in Montana and Ohio, and President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign in these battleground states.
Pressure has increased for Sens. Jon Tester (Montana) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) to protect abortion rights after Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia) announced his retirement earlier this month. Brown has been outspoken about abortion throughout his tenure, especially after the recent victories in his home state, and his campaign is making abortion rights a central part of his reelection campaign. Tester has focused attention on Montanans’ right to “their freedom and privacy” in regards to abortion medication access. And J.B. Poersch, who runs the powerful Senate Majority PAC for Democrats, told reporters that they will “make sure voters in Montana and Ohio understand the choice they face next November” between Senate incumbents and anti-abortion competitors.
We’re also seeing 2024 ads focused on abortion rights hitting popular media markets. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, for example, is running new ad in Florida attacking Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 6-week abortion ban. (The two governors are having a debate later this month.)
Meanwhile, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who has been holding up hundreds of military nominations and promotions in ‘protest’ of the Pentagon’s abortion policy, peddled conspiracy theories about women in the military having “post-birth” abortions on a conservative talkshow this weekend. The Alabama Senator, who is facing criticism from other Republicans, is looking to fuel outrage and get some much-needed support.
Mother Jones on the If/When/How report showing that when it comes to abortion criminalization, it’s health care providers that are most likely to turn you in;
The Daily Beast on the anti-abortion group trying to use leftist-feminist rhetoric to roll back women’s rights;
And a global news update: Argentina elected far-right libertarian Javier Milei in their presidential elections this weekend, who has vowed to repeal abortion access.
There is a a ton of chatter about Nikki Haley right now among Republicans. In the wake of the GOP’s massive losses, driven by abortion rights, pundits and strategists are pushing out Haley (and her messaging) as a potential solution.
CNN reported last week that Tim Scott’s funders have moved over to Haley, just as billionaire hedge fund founder Ken Griffin said he’s considering backing the former South Carolina governor. “Everything I hear is folks moving to Haley,” one fundraiser said.
And we all know why: abortion. Republicans seem to think that Haley’s attempts to seem ‘moderate’ on abortion is working—she’s battling it out for second place against Gov. Ron DeSantis in Iowa. But as law professor Mary Ziegler said last week, Haley’s strategy will only be successful if voters believe her. And if there were any lessons from the election in Virginia—where Gov. Glenn Youngkin tried to soft-peddle his extremism—it’s that voters aren’t that easy to trick when it comes to abortion rights.
But Democrats don’t want to take any chances: The Biden campaign is going after Haley’s anti-abortion extremism, and the possibility of a national abortion ban under her presidency.
I called this back in August: Haley is not close to being “reasonable” on abortion, and all her messaging is doing is shifting the center. (Remember her line on everyone agreeing women shouldn’t get the death penalty for abortion??)
Post-Roe Brain Drain
Abortion, Every Day has written a lot about the way that anti-choice states are losing doctors—OBGYNs, specifically. But the brain drain goes beyond healthcare professionals: young people also don’t want to study or live in states that don’t protect abortion rights.
A Gallup poll from April, for example, showed that almost three-quarters of college students said the abortion laws in their school’s state was important to their decision to stay enrolled. A 2019 survey also showed almost 80% of college students want abortion to be legal, and a NBC poll found that 1 in 3 students would change schools if they were in an anti-choice state.
Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer expanded on those studies, looking at additional polling and talking to high school students in Pennsylvania who said abortion rights were a top concern when looking at colleges. Here’s what one 17-year old said:
“When I was cultivating my list of possible schools, I thought about attending Rice University, but I crossed it off. I didn’t want to sacrifice my rights to an abortion by living in Texas. After that, I barely looked into schools in states where I thought my rights weren’t protected. I eliminated Florida, then Alabama, and Louisiana.”
It’s just another reminder that protecting abortion rights isn’t just the morally right thing to do—but also a smart economic choice. One educational consultant told the Inquirer, for example, “After Ohio voted for abortion protections earlier this month, I had one mother say to me, ‘O.K., Oberlin is back on the list!’”
“Back to the States”
Mollie Hemingway, editor of the conservative publication The Federalist, was on Fox News this weekend talking about how Republicans should be messaging around abortion rights. She said something that I think relates to my prediction around what Donald Trump is going to do next on abortion rights:
“They need to present a vision. They need to get things done with whatever limited power they have in Washington, D.C. And they absolutely need to make the case on abortion, to explain that what the Dobbs ruling did was allow states to make their own policies on abortion to return it to the people so they can decide.”
As I’ve said before, it’s not new for Republicans to say Dobbs was just about giving power back to the states. But in the wake of their massive abortion-driven losses, conservatives are going to significantly ramp up messaging around this point. Their hope is that it will 1) draw attention away from the efforts to ban abortion nationally (which haven’t gone anywhere!) and 2) allow them to frame pro-choice ballot measure wins not as major losses, but disappointing outcomes of a broader victory: allowing abortion to be decided by the states.
In fact, right on cue, Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie lauded Dobbs on “Meet the Press” this weekend as giving abortion back to the states: “We’ve seen referenda go on in places like Kansas and Ohio and other places, where voters are getting to express their view on this. That’s the way it always should have been.”
I’m going to keep a close eye on this one, and you should too.