Will Abortion Save the Democrats?


President Joe Biden


Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Four months from the November midterm elections, President Biden is plumbing the depths of unpopularity. Only 39% or so of Americans approve of the job he’s doing.

Some Democrats appear to think abortion politics will save them, as suburban women revolt against the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. They’re renewing their campaign to pack the High Court with two or maybe four more

Sonia Sotomayors.

A member of President Biden’s commission on Court reform, former federal Judge

Nancy Gertner,

is saying she’s “deeply frustrated” with Mr. Biden for failing to meet the moment.

Not to spoil the progressive reverie, but look again at the polling, starting with the latest Harvard/Harris survey, which was conducted after the Court overturned Roe. Fifty-five percent of voters, including 61% of women, say they oppose that reversal. Yet many people, as usual, don’t seem to understand what exactly Roe enshrined, which was an unrestricted right to abortion before about 23 or 24 weeks.

When, specifically, do the respondents think abortion should be legal? Starting with the most restrictive, 37% say only after rape or incest. Another 12% say until six weeks of pregnancy, and 23% say up to 15 weeks. Add those figures together and it’s nearly three quarters of voters (including 75% of women) who desire a policy that Roe deemed illegal.

As for the furious response to the loss of Roe, 59% of voters, including 61% of independents, say it’s “wrong” for Democrats to call the Supreme Court “illegitimate.” Also, 62% say people shouldn’t be allowed to protest outside the Justices’ private homes, and 51% believe such activists should be arrested. As for the election, 36% say Roe’s reversal makes them more likely to vote for Democrats, 36% say the same for Republicans, and 29% say it won’t matter.

This is one survey, and the usual caveats apply, but the picture is remarkably consistent. (See our June 10 editorial, “The Contradictions of Abortion Polling.”) Democrats might not respect the median view on abortion, and their bill in Congress suggests they don’t. But many of them seem not even to comprehend it.

Wonder Land: Democrats always seem on the edge of pushing politics into a state of civil unrest. Images: Getty Images/The Boston Globe Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the July 8, 2022, print edition.


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