Reading Time: 4 minutes

Last night, a Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) draft opinion was leaked, showing they have voted to overturn the 50-year legal precedent of Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that established the right to abortion.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a draft, which was circulated in February, and was leaked to Politico. It seems that Alito was joined by justices Clarence Thomas and all three of former President Donald Trump’s nominees: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Justices Stephen Breyer, Elana Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor were working on dissents. It was unclear how Chief Justice John Roberts voted.

Draft opinion or not, Roe v. Wade’s days are numbered.

The U.S. is just about to go into a politically divisive tailspin. If that wasn’t bad enough for American liberals, it would appear that the Democrats, as the incumbent party with a wafer-thin Senate majority and a President who is struggling to keep his head above water in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, are odds-on favorites to lose the upcoming November midterm elections.

But all might not be lost. This cloud might just have a silver lining.

Biden received the most votes in U.S. history, primarily because voters had something tangible, something monstrous to fight against. They weren’t predominantly lauding Joe Biden, they were mobilizing to excoriate Donald Trump.

Yes, this kind of voting is negative, since it’s not so much building up a vision as thoroughly rejecting another ideology. In this way, however, the Democrats now have a very clear purpose and identity: they are the party for reproductive rights, and if you don’t want these rights stripped from you and others, you have to vote Democrat.

Forget everything else: If it’s reproductive rights you are interested in, you have to vote Democrat. That could well be the mantra going forward.

Americans (and I say this as a Brit outsider looking in) are very much single-issue voters in a way the UK hadn’t really experienced until Brexit, and that may be more transitory. Guns or abortion or religious freedom (privilege): these issues are what very many U.S. voters are obsessed with. It doesn’t matter to Jack if he will have his welfare stripped, or his local schools are defunded, as long as he gets to keep his guns. He will vote for whoever allows him the freedom to shoot.

This is the same principle.

Forget everything else: If it’s reproductive rights you are interested in, you have to vote Democrat. That could well be the mantra going forward.

My prediction is that the midterms might well become a single-issue election, with single-issue campaigning. And that issue will be the pro-choice vs anti-choice dichotomy.

Does pro-choice have broad support? It turns out that, while anti-abortion activists have the loudest voices, they are in the minority, according to this latest Forbes summary of the data:

Broad support for abortion rights: Gallup polls show Americans’ support for abortion in all or most cases at 80% in May 2021, only sightly higher than in 1975 (76%), and the Pew Research Center finds 59% of adults believe abortion should be legal, compared to 60% in 1995—though there has been fluctuation, with support dropping to a low of 47% in 2009.

The share of Americans in Gallup’s poll who say abortion is morally acceptable reached a record high of 47% in May, up from a low of 36% in 2009, and a Quinnipiac poll found support for abortion being legal in all or most cases reached a near-record high in September with 63% support.

Steady support for Roe: Support for the Supreme Court’s abortion precedent in Roe v. Wade is similar, with a November Quinnipiac poll finding that 63% agree with the court’s ruling; and 72% of respondents in a January Marquette Law School poll and 69% of January CNN poll respondents oppose it being overturned.

If Roe is overturned: A January CNN poll found a 59% majority want their state to have laws that are “more permissive than restrictive” on abortion if Roe goes away, while only 20% want their state to ban abortion entirely (another 20% want it to be restricted but not banned).

Strongest support for abortion—within limits: An Associated Press/NORC poll in June found 87% support abortion when the woman’s life is in danger, 84% support exceptions in the case of rape or incest, and 74% support abortion if the child would be born with a life-threatening illness.

The whole breakdown that they give is well worth perusing, but I will furnish you with two further demographic segments:

Partisan split—but not in all cases: Democrats are statistically far more likely to support abortion rights than Republicans, with Quinnipiac finding in September that only 39% of Republicans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases versus 89% of Democrats—though 70% and 76% of Republicans support exceptions for rape and incest and when the mother’s life is at risk, respectively.

The religious support abortion rights—except for White evangelicals: Pew found Americans with religious affiliations are far more likely to oppose abortion than the nonreligious (82% of whom believe abortion should be legal), but with the exception of white evangelical Protestants (77% of whom believe abortion should be illegal), a higher share of every religious group polled—white non-evangelicals, Black Protestants and Catholics—favor abortion rights.

Of course, while those who oppose abortion rights really seem to oppose them to the point of seeing this as a single issue, the question remains as to whether those who support abortion rights really support them, enough to get out and vote solely on that issue. This could present an existential crisis for some as it played out in the 2020 elections.

But there is no guarantee. We shall see how the campaign managers and projects manifest in the coming weeks and months. Perhaps Democrats could extend their Senate majority so they aren’t held to ransom by the Republicans Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

Hopefully, we’ll see Democrats as having more chance of at least retaining their slim majority than they had last week.

Avatar photo

Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...