by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Democrats reacted with predictable hysteria last Friday when the Supreme Court handed down its decision overturning Roe v. Wade. We have since been deafened by shrill denunciations of the “MAGA Court,” “extremist justices” and all things Republican. Adding to the din President Biden brayed, “This decision is the culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared, “Make no mistake: reproductive freedom is on the ballot in November.” It is hardly a given, however, that this will save the Democrats in the fall.
Public opinion polls suggest that the Court and the voters are in agreement on abortion. According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, for example, “More American voters favor the idea of a 15-week abortion ban than oppose it.” The Mississippi law that resulted in Roe’s long overdue demise includes just such a restriction. It thus provided the Court with an opportunity to reassess whether fraught questions involving abortion should be resolved by judges or the elected representatives of the people. The Court obviously chose the latter alternative, but the resultant sound and fury isn’t likely to do the Democrats much good in the midterms.
First, a number of major polls have found that the electorate’s view on abortion is far more nuanced than the Manichean political debate over Roe v. Wade suggests. A recent Gallup survey of historical trends indicates that, while most voters believe abortion should be legal during the first trimester of pregnancy, the survey also reveals that significant majorities believe it should be illegal after that point. Fully 71 percent say abortion should be illegal during the third trimester. This view of abortion has been prevalent for some time. An AP-NORC poll conducted almost exactly a year ago produced results consistent with those of the Gallup survey.