In several states proponents of abortion rights have started an aggressive campaign to strengthen and expand the guaranteed access to abortion in anticipation of adverse actions by the court. At the same time, abortion opponents impose sharp restrictions on the procedure – potential test cases for the new conservative majority.
The issue also resonates on the national stage. Last week the Democrats aimed for moderate Republicans in the Senate who voted to uphold Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who is seen as a potential threat to the landmark Roe v. Wade scheme that established a right to abortion in 1973.
And the Republicans, led by President Donald Trump, have dedicated themselves to the efforts in New York and Virginia to expand access to abortion in the late term, which is still hugely popular with most voters. In his State of the Union speech, Trump made his call for paid leave to have parents fraternize with their newborn child in accordance with abortion legislation, saying that "a baby could be torn out of the mother's womb shortly before birth . "
Strategists in both parties are convinced that the problem will work to their advantage in the forthcoming campaigns for Congress and the White House.
"In many ways, both parties have their base here," said Jim McLaughlin, a Republican pollster who worked on the 2016 president's campaign.
Republicans seized late abortion after controversial remarks from Virginia Gov Ralph Northam, D, who is labeled as confirmation of infanticide by Republicans. The Northam office rejected that interpretation, but his January 30 interview drew attention to the failed Virginia law, which would have made it easier for women to obtain abortions until the time of delivery.
"The Democratic Party is at great risk if they continue with abortion because they can alienate male and female voters in states that President Obama won both times and won President Trump in 2016," said Kelly House Conway, White House Advisor. , who has worked for years to limit abortion.
"In those states," she said, "someone who calls themselves pro-choice may not be willing to accept a" definition of pro-choice that says that abortion is for everyone, always and everywhere. "
Democrats see danger for republicans in the evolving Supreme Court, arguing that Kavanaugh's ascension will lead to new restrictions on abortion rights, even if the court does not overturn Roe v. Wade.
Last week Kavanaugh voted to have a restrictive Louisiana law come into effect, although the majority of the court blocked its execution. Liberals quickly used the verdict to attack Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a supporter of abortion rights, who voted Kavanaugh last fall.
"We believe the Kavanaugh vote will not soon be forgotten – it was not just a moment in time," said Brian Fallon, director of Demand Justice, who will launch a small digital advertising campaign against Collins this week. The group also plans to hire field organizers in Maine and Colorado, swing states where Collins and Sen. Cory Gardner, R in 2020, face the electorate.
"There are two full provisions of the Supreme Court for the next election," Fallon said. "That's a lot of time for Kavanaugh to make them seem foolish."
The general opinion of Americans about abortion has varied since the late 1970s, according to Gallup: about 29 percent of respondents say that it should be legal in all circumstances, an increase of 21 percent. About 18 percent say that it should always be illegal, a little lower than 22 percent.
But the shifts between voters in every political party were grim. In 2018, almost half of Democrats – 46 percent – said that abortion would be legal under all circumstances, against 19 percent in 1975. Only 11 percent of Republicans agree.
This polarization has led to each party taking more absolute positions, even now that the majority of voters continue to land somewhere in the middle. In August, a Washington Post-ABC poll found that a 45 percent majority of respondents said the Supreme Court should not change the ability of Americans to get abortions, while 30 percent think it should be more difficult.
Only 21 percent – one in five – said they wanted better access to abortion. Long-term abortion is particularly unpopular: in May 2018 Gallup discovered that 60 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in the first trimester, but only 13 percent support termination in the third trimester.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, D, recently signed a law that allows abortions after 24 weeks if it's life or health. of a woman in danger; previously the state allowed such abortions only to save the life of a woman. The measure also decriminalized abortion by regulating the procedure in the context of the health code instead of the criminal code.
New Mexico, which has just elected a Democratic governor, and Rhode Island are considering similar legislation. In Virginia, a measure that would have permitted abortion in the long term was allowed to "mental health". of a woman, in addition to other changes, submitted to the committee.
The accounts are part of a recent revival of legislation aimed at strengthening abortion rights, said Megan Donovan, a senior policy analyst at The Guttmacher Institute. "States want to protect access to abortion, especially in case Roe v. Wade is destroyed and undermined," she said.
Asked about the Virginia measure, Northam said that a baby who was born alive during an attempted abortion would be resuscitated if that is what the mother and family wanted, which caused an uproar that the Democrats quickly on Capitol Hill threatened to overwhelm.
"This just adds more fuel to the fire," said Mallory Quigley, a spokesperson for the Susan B. Anthony list, who deployed more than 1,000 antiabortion researchers to elect Republicans in 2018 senate races. "Absolutely, this is going to be something that we will bring back to the electorate."
White House assistants recently discussed the advantage of forcing Democratic candidates to make clear their views on abortions late in pregnancy. They noted that Democrats chose not to make abortion a national issue in last year's congressional elections, even when they handled a record number of female candidates and aggressively fed female voters.
"What makes it qualitatively different is that the Democrats are replacing their hand over abortion in the long run," said Ralph Reed, chairman of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition. "The left quarrel under Trump has actually increased the actual extreme position of the Democratic Party – namely abortion by the ninth month of pregnancy, in some cases until the moment of birth."
Activity in court contributes to the feeling of desperation. The Supreme Court must consider the merits of the Louisiana law, which was passed in 2014 but has never been fully implemented. It would effectively close most of the state's abortion clinics by asking doctors in those facilities to grant admission to nearby hospitals.
In addition, the Supreme Court is currently considering whether an Indiana law in 2016, signed by the then government, should be revised. Mike Pence, R, but never implemented, prohibits women from choosing abortion when the fetus suffers from genetic abnormalities, such as Down's syndrome, and requires burial or cremation of the remains of an abortion.
Separately, 21 states have asked the court to go into an Alabama law from 2016 that prohibits a procedure known as dilation and evacuation, the primary method of ending pregnancies in the second trimester in the state.
"That is what the fight is all about: people are trying to make it harder and harder for women to get an abortion," says Jennifer Dalven, director of the Reproductive Freedom Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It makes abortion almost illegal for thousands of women without the Court ever voting to overturn Roe v. Wade explicitly."
Democrats are planning to use the threat of litigation to put Republicans into more and more blue states on the defensive. Colorado Sen Cory Gardner, who voted for Kavanaugh and described himself as "pro-life", struggled with questions about abortion during his 2014 race when the Democrats attacked him for supporting his efforts to name the fetus a person entitled to legal rights – a position that could banish abortion completely.
Gardner replied that his support amounted to a "statement" indicating his opposition to abortion and said he wanted to increase access to contraception.
During the debate about Kavanaugh's confirmation, Collins said she was convinced he would not destroy Roe v. Wade. Collin's spokesperson Annie Clark said the senator continues to believe that, and that liberals misinterpreted his voice about Louisiana's law last week-which, she said, should not substantially limit abortion.
What is clear, Clark said, is "that many critics of Justice Kavanaugh's dissenting opinion have not even read it."
This article was written by Juliet Eilperin and Michael Scherer, reporters from The Washington Post.