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How abortion rights will shape November’s midterms

Democrats believe the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade could breathe new life into their efforts to maintain control of Congress

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Police move barricades in place as a crowd of people gather outside the Supreme Court, Monday in Washington.

Police move barricades in place as a crowd of people gather outside the Supreme Court, Monday night, May 2, 2022, in Washington.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

The Supreme Court building in Washington was enveloped with protesters until the early morning hours Tuesday, following Politico’s report that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. Anti-abortion activists, numbered in the thousands, chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go,” while abortion-rights supporters tried to drown them out, saying, “Hey hey, ho ho, sexist fascists got to go.”

By 2 a.m., most of the demonstrators had cleared out. But analysts predict the contentious feelings between the two groups will carry into this fall’s midterm elections, making abortion a central issue.

Whether outrage stemming from the court’s apparent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade a decision with which nearly 6 in 10 Americans disagree — will be enough to propel Democrats to victory in the 2022 midterms is still unknown. Republicans are widely considered favorites to retake control of both the House and the Senate.

But the news has already sparked a massive fundraising wave for Democrats. In the three hours after Politico’s story was published Monday night, Democrats and progressive organizations raised over $1 million on fundraising site ActBlue, according to CBS News.

Democratic lawmakers have quickly framed Monday’s leak in the context of the upcoming midterms. Last night, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, claimed abortion rights would be the “central” issue in the midterms.

“Republicans just gutted Roe v Wade, the Constitution’s guarantee of reproductive freedom, and will ban abortion in all 50 states, if they take over Congress,” Maloney tweeted. “Only Democrats will protect our freedoms. That is now the central choice in the 2022 election.”

Other Democratic lawmakers responded in kind. “Republicans won’t stop with banning abortion,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., tweeted, linking a voter registration site. “Our freedoms are being taken away. We need to show up in November and vote!” Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., said

Party leadership — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — released a statement, calling on voters to hold the GOP accountable: “The party of Lincoln and Eisenhower has now completely devolved into the party of Trump,”they wrote. “Every Republican Senator who supported Senator McConnell and voted for Trump Justices pretending that this day would never come will now have to explain themselves to the American people.”

Christie Roberts, executive director of the Democratic Senate campaign arm, told Politico that Monday’s revelation “has dramatically escalated the stakes of the 2022 election.”

“Only Democrats will protect our freedoms. That is now the central choice in the 2022 election.” — Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney

Republicans, on the other hand, are skeptical of the court’s decision affecting the midterms — and even more so of the notion that it will benefit Democrats. 

“Does this motivate married suburban women for the Democrats — five months post-decision — against a backdrop of war in Europe, high gas prices, education issues, and rampant illegal immigration? I don’t think so,” a former Republican Senate aide toldThe Washington Post. “This will also motivate the conservative base in an election where Trump isn’t on the ballot — although the base is already very motivated.”

Many Republican lawmakers who responded to the news chose to focus on the unprecedented nature of the leak. Both of Utah’s senators, Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, released statements called the leak “appalling” and “dangerous.” Other GOP members of Congress surmised the leak was done for political purposes.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the leaked draft opinion and called it a “singular and egregious breach.”

“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed,” Roberts said, announcing an investigation into the source of the leak.

Before Monday, abortion rights were not a major issue for voters going into the 2022 election. A Long Island University poll last September listed the economy as the top issue for voters in the 2022 midterm elections. Abortion rights did not make the top 10, although racial/gender equality was seventh and the Supreme Court eighth. But polls from Morning Consult have shown a gradual increase of abortion as a top issue to Democratic women after states like Texas imposed abortion bans.