It’s been nearly a month since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, and the battle over abortion restrictions — propelled by conservatives seeking to enforce them — rages on as Democrats fight back.
Lately, the fight has been concentrated in several Southern states, including West Virginia and Louisiana, where state courts have continuously blocked abortion bans. In Texas, state officials pursued legal action against the Biden administration for allowing medical professionals to perform abortions in emergencies, regardless of a state’s laws.
Abortion has proven to be a wild card leading up to the November midterm elections. In a typical year, Democrats — the party in power — could expect to lose a significant number of seats in Congress. But top party leaders are rallying around abortion, hoping to motivate voters to head to the polls on the promise of continuing to fight for reproductive rights. Recent polls have backed up their strategy, showing increasing public support for Democrats after Roe was overturned.
Here’s the latest on how these issues will play out in the coming weeks and months:
Enforcement legal fights continue in West Virginia and beyond
West Virginia was at the forefront of state legal battles on abortion bans this week, after a judge temporarily blocked the enforcement of that state’s abortion ban.
The blocked 19th-century ban has not been enforced in more than 50 years, and a 2015 law allows abortions in the state until 20 weeks, The Associated Press reported. The state’s sole abortion clinic — which challenged the ban in court — can now continue providing the procedure.
State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he will bring the case before the West Virginia Supreme Court.
In Louisiana, meanwhile, the state’s restrictive trigger law has been temporarily blocked again, after being shunted back and forth since June. District Judge Donald Johnson told the state and the clinic challenging the law to submit findings on Tuesday, but did not say when he would make a ruling, AP reported.
Texas AG sues over guidance on emergency abortions
And in Texas, that state’s attorney general sued the Biden administration’s top health officials last week over the administration’s guidance to doctors.
The guidance — covered in last week’s abortion news roundup — said federal law requires doctors to perform abortions in emergencies, even in states with restrictive laws. Otherwise, health workers and hospitals could risk their participation in Medicare, Medicaid or other federal programs.
The suit, filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, said the memo “forces hospitals and doctors to commit crimes.” It will go to a federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump, and potentially to a right-leaning circuit court if appealed.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called Paxton “extreme and radical” in response to the lawsuit.
Conservatives scrutinized for response to child’s abortion
“I’m not touching this story with a 10-foot pole wrapped in a blanket wrapped in a whatever.”
That’s what one Republican strategist said to POLITICO about the report of a 10-year-old girl who crossed state lines to get an abortion after being raped.
Conservative media outlets and politicians — many of whom initially cast doubt on the story’s veracity — were forced to backtrack last week when it was confirmed. The National Right to Life Committee’s general counsel, Jim Bopp, attracted additional backlash after he told POLITICO the child should have carried the pregnancy to term.
The case has become an indicator of some of the issues conservatives could face as they try to rally their base, without alienating midterm voters who see total abortion bans without exceptions as too extreme.
“These are the kind of things that are going to breathe life into the Democrats’ hopes of maintaining some sort of coalition,” Republican strategist John Thomas said.
Polls show Democrats gained support after Roe ruling
With four months to go before the House and Senate are shaken up, Democrats and Republicans are weighing the best approaches to bring voters to the polls. Historically, the president’s party loses seats in Congress during this period for a number of reasons — President Joe Biden’s recent low approval rating is an unsurprising factor this time around. Take into account high inflation and a pandemic that hasn’t ceased its deadly spread, and things aren’t looking too promising for Democrats.
However, a new poll from The New York Times/Siena College suggests that Democrats — fueled by a wave of support since Roe was overturned in late June — might put up a tougher battle than originally anticipated. Among overall registered voters, 41 percent said they would prefer to see a Democrat-controlled Congress after the midterms, while 40 percent said they would opt for a Republican-controlled one. Republicans led by 1 percentage point among likely voters. The poll was based on responses from 849 registered voters in early July.
The New York Times/Siena College poll is the latest of several surveys to come to the same conclusion: Democrats are gaining more momentum for the midterms than expected, especially considering the issues plaguing the Biden administration. Among several polls conducted before and after the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling, Democrats have gained an average of 3 percentage points on the congressional ballot in their favor.
Democratic governors pitch themselves as last line of defense
While much of the focus is on Congress, winning gubernatorial races across the country is a critical component of Democrats’ attempt to ensure abortion protections at the state level. In Wisconsin, incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ battle underscores the struggles that local leaders face to maintain a motivated voter base.
Many Democratic voters in Wisconsin, which is heavily gerrymandered in favor of Republicans, see Evers as the last line of defense to protect abortion access through veto power. The incumbent’s issue is emblematic of a nationwide dilemma facing Democrats — even if he’s reelected, protecting abortion rights from being stripped is the most the governor can attempt to do.
In a race that Cook Political Report has classified as a toss-up, Evers has taken steps to solidify his base, including offering clemency to abortion providers punished via Wisconsin’s abortion ban that was enacted in 1849.
“I firmly believe what you’ll see if a Republican ends up as governor of the state of Wisconsin … we will see elections change to the point where the Legislature makes the final decision, and that should scare the living crap out of everybody in this room,” Evers said at a pro-abortion-rights event last week.
Other toss-up gubernatorial races that hinge on the abortion issue include Georgia’s contest involving incumbent Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams; Michigan’s race pitting incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer against several strong GOP candidates; Kansas’ race with incumbent Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly against Republican State Attorney General Derek Schmidt; and Pennsylvania’s race with Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who replaced term-limited Gov. Tom Wolf as the Democratic candidate.
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