The Impact of the Roe v. Wade Leak on the Midterm Elections

Progressive Politics Elections

The Impact of the Roe v. Wade Leak on the Midterm Elections

Posted on: 17th May 2022
Harry Summers
Political Researcher

A draft majority decision for the Supreme Court written by Justice Alito was leaked – the first time in modern history such a leak has happened while a case is still in deliberation – outlining the court’s opinion that abortion is not guaranteed by the constitution. He further argued that the court’s previous decision had disrupted the democratic process of states deciding their respective approaches to abortion legislation at the time.  

This leak will have enormous consequences for both millions of women seeking care, as well as for the political landscape in the coming months. Although it had been rumoured the court could be weighing overturning the decision, the leaked document will prove a powerful motivator for liberals and progressives come the midterms. While it is still expected that the GOP will flip at least the House, the momentum generated by the anger on the left may help the Democrats hold the Senate.

Within hours of the leak hitting the news, hundreds of protestors from both sides of the debate had gathered in front of the Supreme Court. We can expect these protests to continue to gain steam throughout the coming weeks and months leading up to the official release in the summer, and in its aftermath should the draft language stand.

The Democrats will seek to capitalise on this leak as campaigns look for fresh contributions, volunteers and momentum. One can expect mailers and emails to highlight this issue and the need to hold the House and the Senate to stave off more victories for conservatives. Talking points from the NRSC and other conservative entities have been circulating among the GOP since the leak was first reported, with most focusing on the leak itself over any of the content.

One of the biggest questions to emerge from this leak is the implications for the midterms. Will the Democrats be able to harness the outrage felt by millions into real political action? Or will the timing of the leak this far ahead of the November elections make it harder for them to keep up the pressure through the summer months and beyond? Currently, it seems that in a time when Democrats have had multiple issues presenting strong headwinds – cost of living, foreign policy, immigration—the leak may have handed Democrats the ammunition they need come November.

The Cook Political Report rates nine Senate seats between Lean D and Lean R, with five classified as toss-ups.1 These are the seats the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will target the most. A Marquette Law School poll in January 2022 found that 72 per cent of those polled opposed overturning Roe, while 28 per cent were in favour.2 If the trend roughly holds for the entire country, Republicans could find themselves on the wrong side of the majority of Americans and face strong as they try and navigate the midterms.

Pew Research Center surveyed more than 10,000 adults between 7 March and 13 March 2022 to see what levels of support there were for abortion across the country. 61 per cent said it should be legal, while 37 per cent said illegal. 36 per cent said it should be legal in most cases, while 19 per cent said all cases with no exceptions. 27 per cent felt it should be illegal in most cases, but only 8 per cent that it should be illegal with no exceptions. This shows that even those saying it should widely be illegal do feel it should be legal in some circumstances.

In an attempt to put the GOP on the spot, Senate Democrats introduced and voted on a bill that would have guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion at the federal level. The bill never stood a chance of passing, though this wasn’t the objective. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer saw this as a chance to make each Senator declare where they stood on the debate to enshrine their stance on the record, allowing Democrats running in potential seats to use this as ammunition on the campaign trail.

There is strong historical evidence that single-issue voters can have an outsized influence on campaigns, from volunteering to donations. The GOP has been capitalising on this for years with the NRA. The Democrats are hoping they can replicate a similar approach for this cycle, though whether they can get themselves organised and maintain the necessary energy is yet to be determined.

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