Abortion has Democrats fired up for 2024


How big an issue will abortion be in the presidential election?

“Abortion is the number one issue in the 2024 campaign,” Gov. J. B. Pritzker (D) told the New York Times last year.

Since then, former President Trump has been at work countering the powerful momentum behind the abortion rights message to voters.

His strategy for dealing with the abortion issue is to scare voters with an issue that drives them to him — immigration.

It worked for him in 2016. Now, he is issuing a new round of alarms over migrants crossing the Mexican border, branding any crime by an undocumented immigrant as evidence of a nation being overrun.

To keep anxiety high over immigration, he ordered House Republicans to back away from an immigration reform deal. That historic agreement would have been good news for the nation, but it was bad news for Trump’s effort to blame President Biden for border problems.  

Trump’s tactic has no chance with most voters. Since the 2022 Dobbs ruling, which ended the federal right to abortion, voters have proven strongly motivated to go to the polls to protect abortion rights. Trump recently tried to dance around the issue by suggesting that a ban on abortion after 16 weeks of pregnancy might be a compromise. But the idea of a ban is not a winner in a country where most voters support the right to abortion.

Even that Trump strategy took a hit last month when Republicans in Alabama reminded voters that the far right wants to go far beyond Dobbs. They want to go deeper into controlling family decisions about childbirth. The conservatives on the Alabama Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that equated frozen embryos with babies and made it a crime to damage or destroy them.

The ruling had the effect of making fertility treatments involving In Vitro Fertilization — IVF — too risky for doctors and patients in the state.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D- Ill.), a disabled combat veteran who used IVF to give birth to her children, introduced a bill to give federal protection to the IVF process.

The Alabama court ruling “paints women like me and our doctors as criminals,” the senator said. Duckworth’s bill had support in polls. In a CBS News/YouGov poll last month, 86 percent of Americans supported keeping IVF legal.

That did not stop Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), a Trump backer, from blocking Sen. Duckworth’s bill as a pro-abortion measure.

A majority of House Republicans, including Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), support the Life at Conception Act, which effectively bans IVF by treating embryos as humans. 

But the backlash against the Alabama court’s ruling was so intense that the GOP-controlled state legislature passed a law protecting fertility clinics from prosecution. It still doesn’t deal with the critical issue of whether an embryo is to be considered a human child.

Trump once thought he could use the economy as an issue to counter concern about the loss of abortion rights. But consumer sentiment is improving as the stock market sets new records.

Trump’s only bet now is to counter highly motivated Democrats at the polls with a huge turnout among right-wing voters stirred up by the immigration issue.

The problem with that strategy is that, since the Supreme Court ended federal protection for abortion, voters in conservative and liberal states have made it the issue that decides campaigns in favor of abortion rights.

It was the biggest issue in the 2022 midterms, halting a promised “Red Wave,” of Republican victories. Last year voters in Virginia gave Democrats the majority of the state legislature after Republicans backed a 15-week ban on abortions.

And this year, abortion rights are likely to be on the ballot in several states where activists are pushing to make abortion access a right in the state constitution. Some of those states are critical to the outcome of the race for the White House, including Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

States with lots of Republican voters, including Kansas and Ohio, are among the six states that have already voted to approve state constitutional protection for abortion. In fact, so far, voters have backed abortion rights every time it has been on the ballot.

In November of last year, a Wall Street Journal/NORC poll found 55 percent say a pregnant woman should be able to get an abortion for any reason. Among all Michigan voters in a February Fox News poll, the economy ranked as the top issue. But among Democrats, 51 percent described abortion as the driving issue, “extremely important” to their 2024 vote.

In Wisconsin, 55 percent of Democrats told the Fox poll that abortion is their top “extremely,” important issue. 

Among North Carolina Democrats, abortion was second the second-place issue at 55 percent, after only healthcare and tied with the economy.

Democrats got complacent in protecting abortion rights. They took the Roe v. Wade ruling for granted as a cornerstone of American life that could never be overturned.

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Now the Democrats are being reminded of their mistake, as conservative courts begin equating embryos with humans, and some states refuse to allow women in medical emergencies to have abortions.

Trump is trying to cloud over the abortion fight by loudly demonizing immigrants. The only way that can work is if most of the country joins in the immigration hype. 

Juan Williams is an author and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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