As Republicans celebrate end of Roe, Democrats vow revenge at polls
Democratic lawmakers and candidates unleashed a torrent of angry, defiant statements Friday, promising to make abortion rights a decisive issue for voters in November, as Republicans celebrated their victory in a decades-long fight for the Supreme Court to end the constitutional right to an abortion.
Since a draft opinion leaked in early May indicating that the court was prepared to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, advocates for reproductive rights have looked ahead to the midterm elections as their only chance to have those rights restored. Democrats believe that by overturning the landmark decision, the Supreme Court just handed them an issue to mobilize voters, particularly suburban women, in an otherwise difficult political climate. And some Republicans are concerned about a backlash in the midterms, particularly from suburban women swing voters.
President Joe Biden, speaking at the White House on Friday, called on Congress to codify abortion into law. If there aren't enough lawmakers willing to do so he said, then Americans must "elect more senators and representatives to codify a woman's right to choose into federal law [and] elect more state leaders to protect this right at the local level."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking to reporters shortly after the decision was announced, offered a preview of the Democrats' campaign message for the next several months. "The Republicans are plotting a nationwide abortion ban. They cannot be allowed to have majority in the Congress to do that. That's their goal," she said.
On Capitol Hill, two House Democratic women embraced as they saw each other, just minutes after the Supreme Court handed down its decision. A visibly shocked Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., didn't have the words to react when reporters asked, simply saying she's "devastated." Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., in a shaky voice said she was "horrified."
"We'll fight it. This will not apply. We will restore rights for my granddaughters," Dean said.
On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who played the greatest role in shaping the current conservative makeup of the Supreme Court, called the decision "courageous and correct."
"This is an historic victory for the Constitution and for the most vulnerable in our society," he said in a statement.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., echoed that sentiment, tweeting: "Every unborn child is precious, extraordinary, and worthy of protection. I applaud this historic ruling, which will save countless innocent lives. The Court is right to return the power to protect the unborn to the people's elected representatives in Congress and the states."
Outside the House floor, an enthusiastic Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said: "That's great! It's a blessing" when asked for her reaction to the decision. "I have prayed for this my whole life," she added.
The massive victory for Republicans came in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case that asked whether a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi was constitutional.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., called the court's decision "one of the darkest days our country has ever seen."
"Millions upon millions of American women are having their rights taken from them by five unelected Justices on the extremist MAGA court," he said.
In the opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., he wrote that if women don't like the decision to give states the power to decide whether to allow abortions, then they should vote.
"Our decision returns the issue of abortion to those legislative bodies, and it allows women on both sides of the abortion issue to seek to affect the legislative process by influencing public opinion, lobbying legislators, voting and running for office," he wrote. "Women are not without electoral or political power."
Some Democratic candidates for the Senate are urging women to exercise that power at the polls in the fall.
"If there were any doubts left about what's at stake in this race, it became crystal clear today. The right to an abortion will be on the ballot this November in Pennsylvania," said John Fetterman, Democratic candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania.
"The decision to strike down Roe v. Wade is downright dangerous and tragic. I'm sick and tired of our basic, fundamental right to privacy being politicized," said Rep. Val Demings, a Florida Democrat running for the Senate.
National Democrats had been anticipating the court would overturn Roe and they quickly announced an organizing campaign focused on electing and reelecting candidates who support abortion rights.
"The majority of voters agree: MAGA Republicans' agenda of criminalizing abortion - including in cases of rape and incest - is wildly out of step with the American people," Sam Cornale, executive director of the Democratic National Committee said. He added that the campaign "will give people across the country a way to make change by electing pro-choice Democrats up and down the ballot in November."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee held a briefing for House Democrats on Wednesday to discuss messaging around abortion and polling. Emily's List, NARAL and Planned Parenthood participated, according to a source familiar with the discussion.
"House Democrats are going to make it clear to voters that we're fighting to protect women's long-held right to make decisions about their own bodies. Republicans are hellbent on ripping power away from women and their doctors. That contrast will be clearly communicated everywhere we can ahead of November," a Democratic strategist granted anonymity to discuss internal strategy, told The Washington Post.
A Washington Post poll in May found a 57% majority of women say the court should uphold the constitutional right to an abortion while a slightly smaller share of men, 50%, say the same.
Some Republicans are wary about the political implications of the decision in an election year in which they'd rather be campaigning on issues of inflation and high gas prices.
"Republican campaigns would rather talk about literally anything else," said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor who is closely following the midterm elections. "This puts most GOP campaigns on their back foot ... and motivates a large swath of women to vote against Republicans in general. As much as this is a policy win for most conservatives, it is a head wind for Republican campaigns for sure."
Former President Donald Trump has complained that overturning Roe v. Wade could hurt Republicans politically in tough districts, two advisers said, and has told allies they should emphasize that states can set their own laws.
"He is convinced it won't help him in the future," one adviser said, referring to abortion, and would prefer the midterm election and 2024 be primarily about other topics, advisers said.
Trump himself has largely stayed away commenting on the decision in recent weeks, joining other Republicans in only decrying the leak of the draft document.
He has suggested to multiple advisers that he would support limits on abortion but would not want them totally outlawed, two people familiar with his comments said.
In an interview last month, McConnell said he was not sure what the political ramifications of a Roe ruling would be, while emphasizing he was pro-life. He said, that abortion politics are "regional" and that some Senate Republicans " feel very strongly about this issue."
"None of us know how big of an impact this has on an election," McConnell said. "I don't think it's going to override inflation, crime and open borders."