Yes, Abortion Access Is a Motivating Issue for Voters

In Virginia, Democrats maintained control of the state Senate and flipped the House of Delegates. While one race remains uncalled, as of Wednesday afternoon, Democrats held a three-seat margin in both the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate. The fear, ahead of Tuesday night, was that Republicans would win both chambers of the Virginia state legislature—gaining complete control of the state government and paving the way for Republican governor Glenn Youngkin’s agenda. As I previously reported, Democrats in the state called on the national Democratic Party and the White House over the summer to pay greater attention to the Virginia elections, arguing that Youngkin, who has been propped up as a potential alternative to Trump in 2024, posed a real threat given his influence within the commonwealth and his fundraising chops. “I’m a little bit amazed that this isn’t a higher priority…at the White House,” Virginia senator Mark Warner, a Democrat, told VF in August.

Warner warned that Youngkin was not one to underestimate. Had Republicans won a trifecta on Tuesday night, the fear was that abortion access would be restricted, if not fully banned, as Youngkin has shifted his position on abortion from seeking a 15- to 20-week ban to saying he will sign “any bill…to protect life.” As Senator Tim Kaine put it to VF, “Make no mistake: If Republicans are successful in 2023, they will continue pushing their extreme agenda in 2024 and beyond.”

Democrats’ success on Tuesday night comes amid escalating fears surrounding Joe Biden’s reelection odds prompted by troubling polls in which Biden is shown trailing Donald Trump in key battleground states. But in the wake of the results, the Biden camp was zealous in their defense of the president’s agenda—specifically on reproductive rights.

“Tonight, Americans once again voted to protect their fundamental freedoms—and democracy won,” Biden said in a statement from the White House. “Ohioans and voters across the country rejected attempts by MAGA Republican elected officials to impose extreme abortion bans that put the health and lives of women in jeopardy, force women to travel hundreds of miles for care, and threaten to criminalize doctors and nurses for providing the health care that their patients need and that they are trained to provide.”

The statement continued, “This extreme and dangerous agenda is out-of-step with the vast majority of Americans. My administration will continue to protect access to reproductive health care and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law once and for all.” 

The elections across the country on Tuesday have been cast as a harbinger of whether or not Biden will win back the White House and which party will win the US House and Senate. For instance, in Ohio, the vote on Issue 1 has been tied tightly to Democratic senator Sherrod Brown’s reelection bid next year. Seen as one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators up for reelection, Brown’s success or failure in 2024 could determine if Democrats hold on to their majority in the Senate—a majority that, albeit slim, could serve as a bulwark against a national abortion ban if Republicans win the House and Trump beats Biden.

Reproductive rights advocates are adamant that Republicans’ attacks on access will prove to be the party’s downfall in 2024. And according to public opinion polls, abortion continues to be a motivating issue for voters. A survey conducted by Impact Research of likely general election voters in 61 battleground congressional districts found that 64% of voters think abortion should be legal in all or some circumstances, according to data provided to VF. In contrast, just 6% think it should be completely illegal. Meanwhile, a majority of voters opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, and nearly 60% support a law that would protect abortion nationwide—including 47% who would strongly support such a law.

“We’ve said it before, and we will say it again: When abortion is on the ballot, reproductive freedom wins,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “Despite every effort and every dollar spent to mislead the public, voters made it clear that when given the choice, the freedom to make decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures will always prevail.”

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