According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll out this week, 56 percent of Americans do not approve of other states passing a law similar to the one in Alabama that bars abortion in almost all cases except when a mother’s life is in danger. In a HuffPost/YouGov poll, a very similar proportion — 57 percent — also disapproved of the law.
Conversely, 33 percent of people said they supported the law in the Morning Consult/Politico poll, and 31 percent said the same in the HuffPost/YouGov survey, while 12 percent said they didn’t know or weren’t sure in both.
As HuffPost’s Ariel Edwards-Levy writes, much of the blowback to the law is due to the fact that even those who oppose abortion broadly do not want to take such an “absolutist” stance on it. Although disapproval was split across party lines — 75 percent of Democrats in the Morning Consult poll opposed laws like the one in Alabama, while just a third of Republicans did — that level of overlap is still significant.
Trump and other Congressional lawmakers including Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Tom Cotton (R-AK), for example, are among those that have distanced themselves from the Alabama law, and noted that they back exceptions in cases of rape and incest, something the law does not include. (As Vox’s Jane Coaston notes, however, some of the conservative pushback might be strategic rather than moral, recognizing what these polls confirm — that blanket bans like Alabama’s are unpopular and could ultimately be counterproductive to the anti-abortion agenda.)
The negative sentiment toward the Alabama law also lines up with the longstanding support that Roe v. Wade has received, with the majority of people backing the landmark Supreme Court case that established a woman’s Constitutional right to an abortion. As a May CBS News poll found, 67 percent of people support upholding Roe, a proportion that’s consistent with polling that took place last summer ahead of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, when 71 percent of people said they wanted the decision to remain intact.
With the recent state-led push to restrict abortion drawing renewed attention to the subject, there’s an outstanding question about how big a role reproductive rights will play in the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. Both parties see it as an issue that could rally their respective bases — but whether the unpopularity of these state laws could be enough to benefit Democrats remains unclear.
Abortion rights could be a major flashpoint in 2020
According to the HuffPost/YouGov poll, a majority of both Republicans and Democrats say that “issues related to abortion” will be important to their presidential vote.
Seventy-five percent of Democrats expressed this sentiment, while 67 percent of Republicans did. In a piece earlier this week, HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel argued that abortion could wind up being comparable to the health care fight of this cycle, even though it’s an issue that will be decided in the courts rather than by legislators.
It’s worth noting that senators play an integral role in determining who sits on the courts, though they would not be making decisions about various legal precedents themselves. And issues of reproductive rights also don’t have to be decided by national candidates in order to motivate voters to turn out for them — though several Democrats have already highlighted ways that a president could play a role in them.
Additionally, women voters brought massive energy to the polls in 2018, and that momentum is only expected to continue in 2020, putting issues tied to women’s health front and center. With more women candidates in Congress and running for the presidency, as well as a growing societal focus on gender equity, there’s also been a larger emphasis on gender-related proposals writ large, which is spurring more conversation around plans that would help address existing disparities.
Already, Democratic candidates are developing more detailed platforms on reproductive rights, compared to past cycles, spurred in large part by the restrictive state laws that have passed this year.
As Democrats have ramped up their focus on protecting Roe and access to abortion clinics, Republicans, too, have dialed up their messaging and activity on the issue. During high-profile rally appearances, Trump has made false claims about late pregnancy abortions and infanticide into common talking points. And conservatives are poised to keep on hammering the importance of stacking the courts with right-leaning justices, a core voting issue for Republicans.
Presently, both sides are in the process of condemning the other’s position as radical and too extreme. As the latest polling suggests, however, most voters seem to think recent laws signal that state Republicans are the ones who have gone too far.