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The honest truth about abortion in America

While some of the midterm election results are still being counted, one thing is certain.
Supporters of the YES on Proposition 1 at a rally at Long Beach City College in Long Beach, Calif., on Nov. 6.
Supporters of the YES on Proposition 1 at a rally at Long Beach City College in Long Beach, Calif., on Nov. 6.Damian Dovarganes / AP

“I don’t think they can expect much of anything other than we’re going to maintain our positions,” said President Joe Biden on Monday when he was asked whether he thought Congress would be able to pass legislation codifying Roe v. Wade. What an absolutely disappointing, yet unsurprising statement to rain on our post-election parade. And it shows once again how incredibly out of sync American politicians are with the people they claim to represent, even when they hold all the power.

Because while some of last week’s election results are still being tabulated, one thing is certain: Abortion was a clear winner.

Political strategists and leaders cast us aside in favor of vague “kitchen table” issues claiming abortion was a “fading issue” or less important to voters than the economy.

Coming off the hard-fought win to protect abortion in Kansas this summer, the work of state organizers paid off again with voters’ enshrining abortion rights in California, Michigan and Vermont, while voters in Kentucky and Montana rejected ballot initiatives that would have further restricted care. Across the country, many voters named abortion as their top or second most important issue in exit polls. Everyone loves someone who had abortions, and they voted like it.

Abortion has long been a winning issue — but even pro-choice candidates didn’t always want to talk about it directly. Political strategists and leaders cast us aside in favor of vague “kitchen table” issues claiming abortion was a “fading issue” or less important to voters than the economy.

Those of us who support people seeking abortions and talk to voters about abortions every day knew this. Hopefully, Democratic leaders will not be surprised the next time Americans vote to protect reproductive rights — and the health and economic freedom they represent. 

And yet we live in a nation where we cannot pass a basic bill to raise the minimum wage or ensure every family has access to universal child care and health care. A few months ago, parents were trying to find formula to feed their babies. The U.S.’s do-nothing attitude about the climate is causing young people to think twice about having children. Of course ensuring everyone has legal, affordable access to abortion care in our communities is front of mind.

Democrats have an opportunity here to face reality. If you’ve ever listened to people share their abortion stories — or had abortions yourself — you know that many cite economics and caring for other children as major factors in their decisions. People may want to parent while also desiring an abortion because they can’t raise another child right now; their bank accounts and circumstances make the decision for them. Voters felt that. 

Republican politicians, in contrast, have mostly chosen to ignore the results. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron put out a statement acknowledging that “a majority of Kentucky voters” rejected the amendment yet vowed to take his pet abortion ban project through the courts anyway. His hubris is more than hypocrisy — it’s election-denial extremism, with a tinge of fascism. In 2011, voters in Mississippi overwhelmingly voted against a total ban on abortion, yet their state officials spent the next decade pushing anti-abortion cases through the courts until they found a Supreme Court finally willing to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The anti-abortion movement has always been the political Trojan horse for white supremacists seeking to seize political power and control. White nationalists use abortion as an issue to divide white Christian voters and oppress people of color seeking reproductive freedom and health care. Senate Republicans claimed that the overturning of Roe was a win for states’ rights and that abortion decisions belong at the state level, but then Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a (doomed) national abortion ban.

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The majority of Americans support abortion — Fox News’ own polls bear this out. Most Americans believe abortion should be informed by medically accurate information and affordable. At this moment the question is whether politicians will actually align with the will of the people.

(That means, for example, that Democratic leaders can’t waste two more years allowing obstructionist moderate Democratic senators like Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia to use the Jim Crow filibuster and side with anti-abortion politicians.)

We’ve had pro-choice majorities before, but pro-choice leaders placed abortion on the back burner, believing it wasn’t in jeopardy. We told them it was in crisis. They didn’t believe us. We told them it would win elections. They didn’t believe us. This year, after abortion was criminalized, they asked us to go out and vote, and we did. Now it’s their turn to act. But will they?

Abortion is a winning issue. We told you so.