Here’s Why Democrats Make the Abortion Debate More Than Abortion


After the project leaked a Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade On the internet this week, top Democrats, including President Biden and Vice President Harris, have made an array of additional rights, like same-sex marriage and birth control, central to their messaging.

Harris invoked those additional rights in a speech this week to abortion rights group EMILY’s List, warning that many more people than those seeking access to abortion could be affected.

“If the court cancels Roe vs. Wade it will be a direct attack on freedom, on the fundamental right of self-determination that all Americans are entitled to,” she said.

President Biden has also centered an array of rights, trying to create a stark contrast to the GOP in the process.

“What are the next things that are going to be attacked? Because this MAGA mob is truly the most extreme political organization that has ever existed in American history,” Biden said this week.

There is indeed a legal link between abortion and many other rights. But Democrats also hope this message will spur them on and hurt Republicans in a year when the president’s party is expected to perform poorly midterm.

The legal link between abortion and many other rights

The idea in roe deer is that abortion is an unenumerated right, that is, the Constitution protects, even if it does not explicitly say that there is a right to abortion. And the Supreme Court also found that abortion is protected by the 14th Amendment, which the court used to protect people’s right to privacy.

This is where Alito’s argument against abortion rights comes in. The court has held in the past that unlisted rights must be “deeply rooted in the history and tradition of this nation.”

Alito’s logic is that when the 14th Amendment was passed, in 1868, American law did not recognize abortion as a basic right. And therefore, abortion is not “deeply rooted in the history of this nation” and is not protected by this amendment.

This logic could easily apply to many other rights, says Mary Ziegler, visiting professor at Harvard Law School.

“At the time the relevant part of the Constitution was drafted, same-sex couples could not marry. Interracial couples certainly could not marry. Birth control was criminalized,” she said. “And so the logic is that if this is how we determine where our constitutional rights begin and end, there’s no reason it should end with abortion.”

Alito also says that Roe is separated from these other rights because it is specifically about “fetal life”. However, this does not mean that the court could not change its mind in the future.

How is it going politically

Activists strongly criticized Biden for not talking more about abortion, or even for using the word “abortion” – the group We Testify maintained a website on the subject: (Biden used the word abortion this week for the first time in his presidency, according to the group.)

So when Biden and other leading Democrats lump abortion with other rights, it can read as reluctance or changing the subject.

But We Testify founder Renee Bracey Sherman explained that linking abortion to other rights is also about getting voters to see abortion as a fundamental part of a landscape of rights that are all linked. each other.

“A lot of people think, ‘I might never need an abortion.’ And a lot of people think of all the issues like, ‘Oh, well, I’m not trans.’ “I’m not black; why is police brutality important to me?” she said. But I think what people don’t realize is how much something like Roe vs. Wade is the foundation of so many other things legally.”

Educating people about the legal connection between these rights is important, she says, as is the fundamental fact of voter self-interest.

How it goes with voters

People’s views on abortion are complicated. A majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances. But a plurality is in this “few” category – they think there should be restrictions.

Along those same lines, many Americans just aren’t very emotional about abortion, says Tresa Undem, a pollster specializing in abortion and gender issues.

“In every newspaper article [about abortion] you look, there is a picture of protesters. It’s not representative,” she said. “It’s like we’re constantly being reinforced by the fact that it’s like this cultural divide – [that it’s an] angry, screaming, emotional, complex problem. And I just don’t see that when I do research.”

However, people who don’t pay much attention to abortion might become activated if roe deer is overturned.

“It’s going to touch people,” she said. “They don’t have to read a political article. They’re going to hear about it. They’re going to be upset about it. They’re going to be surprised about it. Maybe not shocked, but surprised.”

The idea is that people will hear that a right they have taken for granted for almost 50 years could be taken away from them, and then they will be angry.

And people notice when something is taken away. A recent example is that Obamacare became more popular when threatened by congressional Republicans.

That said, this is all conjecture in the hours since a potential seismic advisory leaked. No one knows how all of this will play out politically, especially when voters have other big concerns, like inflation.

Moreover, even if the issue of abortion boosts the Democrats in November, that does not mean that they will be able to muster the votes to pass a law codifying roe deer — something the slim senatorial majority in the party is discovering right now.

To be clear, however, if roe deer is reversed, there are far more immediate consequences than midterms. Greater abortion restrictions in many states would begin immediately, well before November.

Copyright NPR 2022.


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